Last week, I provided a ride for a young Black man, 24, to the new Roses store on Freedom Drive for a job interview. He was so excited and full of hope when they told him to return later for an assessment. He passed every requirement except one, the criminal check. He was honest and checked the box that asked about any criminal history thus was told if it wasn’t for that, a drug related issue, he would’ve been hired. This young man was so disappointed and he lost hope. I can see it in his face. I tried to encourage him and said ‘don’t give up.’
I went home and pulled out some papers I received from an event held by Charlotte School of Law Civil Rights Clinic that pertained to this dilemma. The eight page report titled, Charlotte Coalition to Ban the Box, I found necessary to reveal its contents. This is a summary of the project where more info can be obtained at Charlotte School of Law website under Ban the Box and a petition form is also available. An ordinance relevant to Fair Hiring Practices concerning persons with conviction histories by the City and City vendors: Purpose- designed to encourage full participation in the city’s workforce of motivated and capable persons with previous convictions to reduce recidivism, protect vulnerable populations and promote public safety. To ensure that conviction histories are not being used as an automatic bar to employment. Discourage the use of application forms that inquire into the conviction history of the applicant in order to prevent wrongful exclusion and discrimination against qualified job applicants. Encourage the full employment and full integration of people with conviction histories back into the community. The city shall not conduct a conviction history check until after an applicant’s credentials have been reviewed and it has determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified.
A CSL project paper states; The EEOC’s policy guidance on conviction records, issued in 1987, recognized that barring people from employment based on their criminal records disproportionately excludes African Americans and Latinos because they are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Blacks account for 28.3 per cent of all arrests in the U.S. but represent about 12.9 percent of the population…it’s a violation of Title VII, just as unlawful and immoral for an employer to use non-related selection criteria that have the effect of differentiating along racial lines. The EEOC has stated that an absolute bar to employment based on the mere fact an individual has a conviction record is unlawful under Title VII. In the last few years, several civil rights lawsuits have been filed, challenging exclusionary practices, against major companies including Lowe’s.
James Williams, Chatham public defender wrote for the NC Bar Association, the elimination of unwarranted racially disparate criminal justice outcomes has been described as the major civil rights issue in the country today. The collateral consequences of a conviction, laws and regulations that bar people from jobs…are debilitating…has been referred to as the new Jim Crow. In NC, 46 per cent of misdemeanor and 53 percent of felony convictions for 2008-2009 were African American males, even though they make up only 21 per cent of the state’s population. This box makes no room for rehabilitation.
Lawmakers, judges, political leaders and concerned citizens need to join this fight for hope,equality, jobs and Ban the Box. Visit CivilRightsClinic@CharlotteLaw.edu.