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Employment Discrimination And Criminal Record

Employers are forbidden by state and federal laws to engage in a number of abusive or discriminatory behaviors. They cannot, for example, refuse to hire you or bully, abuse or intimidate you based on your race, gender, ethnicity, nation of origin, general identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability or age. Employers generally must comply with rules about minimum wage, overtime pay, family and medical leave and more. Unfortunately, that does not mean that employers must conduct themselves in a reasonable or caring manner. There are any number of common practices among employers that fly in the face of decency and logic. Among those are hiring practices that can turn a criminal record into a lifetime of poverty and dependency.

President Obama has helped put in place a policy where federal agencies would "ban the box" in hiring decisions. The box in question is the one where job applicants are asked if they have a criminal history. That box is often used to discard applications of perfectly qualified individuals based on, in many cases, old and unrelated issues. An 18-year-old who makes a mistake can be functionally banned from certain jobs even after decades of outstanding work.

There is little doubt that some criminal convictions are pertinent to some types of jobs. It is reasonable to refuse to hire a person whose criminal record directly pertains to duties required in the job. In many cases, the record will have no bearing on the applicant or his or her ability to do the job. Removing that box from federal job applications is a step in the right direction for workers.

Unfortunately, the box is just one small part of the first step in getting a job. Employers may simply turn to background checks or other methods of weeding out any applicant with a criminal record. Banning the box is a good idea that should be taken farther to give qualified applicants a realistic shot at obtaining employment.

Source: USA Today, "Obama tells federal agencies to 'ban the box' on federal job applications," by Gregory Korte, 3 November 2015 

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