Business leaders support, propose conditions to ‘ban the box’

Some business leaders get behind Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ effort to make it easier for people with criminal convictions to get hired.

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Some business leaders are getting behind Portland Mayor Charlie Hales’ effort to make it easier for people with criminal convictions to get hired.

But they have some recommendations to protect their interests, the Portland Tribune reports.

“Portland’s employers are committed to creating job opportunities for everyone,” Portland Business Alliance President and CEO Sandra McDonough said in Jim Redden’s story. “At the same time, they must balance a need to ensure the safety of their employees and their customers by thoroughly screening job applicants. Banning the box makes sense, but employers need flexibility to review applicant backgrounds during the interview process when they believe it is necessary given the nature of the job.”

Hales will address the City Council Wednesday to report on his “ban the box” efforts.

The founder of the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs Sam Brooks and Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber president Gale Castillo were quoted as  “absolutely” in favor of the measure, if businesses are allowed to set certain conditions.

The 2015 Oregon Legislature is considering a statewide ban the box policy. According to the three business organizations, 79 state and local jurisdictions have enacted “ban the box” rules, but of those only 14 apply them to private employers. And of those 14, only three prohibit criminal background checks until a conditional offer has been made, and only two permit private rights of action. Most allow the checks after an initial screening or interview.

“We understand that many qualified individuals are turned away from potential employment simply because they honestly disclosed a criminal history on an employment application. Banning the box shifts the conversation about criminal histories off the application and into the interview process, so that applicants and potential employers will have an opportunity to discuss the circumstances, which will enable the employers make a decision whether the criminal background should be a determining factor for a particular job,” said Brooks.

Hales first proposed “ban the box” at his 2015 State of the City address. In Tuesday’s Portland Tribune, Hales expanded on why he wants to run for another term:

As Hales sees it, the improving economy is increasing city revenues enough to launch new initiatives, including increased funding for affordable housing and tax breaks for businesses that benefit society by doing such things as hiring people released from prison. Both ideas were included in the State of the City speech Hales delivered before the Portland City Club at the end of January.

“Going forward, I’m going to be rolling out proposals to implement the talking points in the State of the City speech,” Hales said.