CLOUT Co-President Chris Kolbe

Politics
3:02 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Louisville Metro Couldn't Ask Job Applicants About Criminal History Under Council Proposal

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An ordinance forbidding the city and its vendors from asking potential employees about their criminal records on job applications is being introduced this week before the Louisville Metro Council.

The legislation is known as "ban the box" and similar measures have passed in 10 states and more than 50 cities across the U.S.

Under the measure, the city and its private contractors would be prohibited from inquiring about an individual's conviction history on a paper application until it is determined they're otherwise qualified for the position.

"Part of being convicted of a crime and serving ones time is punishment enough," says Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, one of the five Democrats sponsoring the bill. "I'm willing to support asking questions about how old they were, how long has it been and have they served their time. I still think there is warrant for asking those questions eventually, but I certainly don't think it needs to be a checkbox on the application. I think it's immediate red flag when it shouldn't be."

Metro Government can still conduct a background check through the Human Resources Department once the job is formally offered, according to the legislation. And the city and vendors are also allowed to consider the nature of the crime, the time elapsed since the conviction and any information pertaining to the person's rehabilitation.

If the city were to reject an application based on their criminal history, the ordinance allows the applicant to appeal within two weeks of the decision.

Bonafacio Aleman is executive director of Kentucky Jobs With Justice and a supporter of the bill. He says many applicants with prior offenses are often disqualified automatically, but they deserve a chance to making a better living

"What’s been found by the Center for Economic and Policy Research report a couple of years ago is folks who have a criminal conviction are 15 to 30 percent less likely to get a job based on the fact of a criminal conviction," he says. "And sometimes the fact is a criminal conviction can be used in a discriminatory manner that goes against fair hiring practices."

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