The “Ban The Box” ordinance is back, it’s balderdash, and it’s on Tuesday night’s Richmond City Council agenda. If your business has 10+ employees and is involved in any form of contract, lease, or financial arrangement with the City of Richmond, you must remove “the box” that asks about criminal history from your employment application. More importantly, unless State or Federal law requires you to perform a background check you are prohibited from making any inquiry at any time about an applicant’s criminal history. If a background check is required the applicant may only be denied if the crime was related to the employment position offered.
The removal of “the box” from employment applications is a positive, progressive idea that should be embraced. People deserve second chances and this gives those with criminal records a critical opportunity to make a positive, untarnished first impression with a potential employer. It provides hope and helps break down the stereotypes that many people associate with felons.
But that’s not enough for Councilmember Beckles, the sponsor of this ordinance prohibiting critical employer inquiry and seeking to make felons a protected class in Richmond and beyond. Thanks to laws like the 1964 Civil Rights Act we are all protected from discrimination based on our individual characteristics such as gender, age, race, color, disability, and religion. Felons, however, are defined only by the illegal actions they have chosen to make and it’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest their decision to assault someone or break into a home deserves the same protection from inquiry as an applicant’s age or disability.
With our penal system returning inmates to communities harder than when they went in and AB109 releasing inmates much earlier than planned, who thinks it’s a bad idea for employers to ask criminal history questions in follow up interviews? Say an engineering firm with periodic City contracts hires a draftsperson who promises he’s a diligent worker – and he might also be a paroled rapist but they’ll never know unless something happens. Or if a local business catering City events hires a new cashier – who might also have been convicted of manslaughter related to an explosive temper. It’s quite possible that these applicants have turned their lives around and they deserve the chance to show it, but don’t you think private employers have a right to ask questions and decide for themselves if they want to place their trust, and that of their other employees, in any applicant?
So let’s Ban The Box from employment applications but when it comes to protecting felons instead of employers there’s a different answer: Ban The Bullsh*t.