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‘Ban the Box’ finally gets approval from DC Council

Washington, D.C. has jumped onboard with other states to initiate the "Ban the Box" bill to help citizens with prior criminal records gain employment.
Washington, D.C. has jumped onboard with other states to initiate the "Ban the Box" bill to help citizens with prior criminal records gain employment.
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On Monday the City Council in Washington, D.C. voted unanimously (12-1) to forward the “Ban the Box” bill to give citizens with a past criminal record greater access for employment. This is a positive move forward for those who have served time in prison, have learned their lesson, and wish to become decent and tax-paying citizens in their communities.

The bill, called the Fair Criminal Record Screening Act, was first introduced by Tommy Wells, a Democrat and representative of Ward 6. It now goes to Mayor Vincent Gray for signature and then to Congress to evaluate.

"Gaining employment is one of the most significant barriers facing returning citizens," Wells said in a statement. "This legislation is a vital step toward addressing that challenge and I commend my colleagues for their diligence and commitment to ensuring passage of this bill prior to Council recess."

More information on the Act from huntonlaborblog.com –

Under Bill 20-642, the Fair Criminal Records Screening Act -- commonly referred to as the “ban the box” bill -- a D.C. employer may only ask about an applicant’s criminal background after making a conditional offer of employment. If the bill becomes law, the District would join 12 states that have passed similar “ban the box” legislation (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Rhode Island), and become part of a growing movement to block employers from including a check box on a job application form that asks “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

Dcist.com and the Washington Post reported that Wells’ first introduction of the bill led to much discussion and as a result, compromise was the only way the bill would go forward. From dcist.com –

In order to get the bill through committee, Councilmember Tommy Wells made two changes, as he told the Post. First, employers will be able to consider an applicant's criminal history after the first interview, instead of after an offer of employment is made. Second, there will not be a provision giving applicants the right to sue over alleged discrimination. This will instead be investigated by the Office of Human Rights.

Ban the Box is a good step in the right direction for those who served time in prison and are back in their communities. According to dcist.com there is an “estimated 60,000 people in D.C. who have a criminal record.” That is a lot of people. But due to the compromise, will the bill actually help those who wish to be employed? Will Congress in reviewing the bill put more stipulations on those trying to get employed? Will there be a data bank created on those who served time and get employed be in a system to be monitored? The Ban the Box initiative should be the beginning of employing those in a favorable way – many went to prison due to unemployment. These people should also be the catalyst in making sure right steps are being taken and done correctly to benefit all.

Michelle Singletary, personal finance columnist of “The Color of Money” in the Washington Post business section, gives her advice on advocating Ban the Box. One statement in Singletary’s article that raised a red flag is this –

“Employers aren’t prohibited from obtaining or using criminal records, but how they use the information may be discriminatory, said Christine Saah Nazer, a spokeswoman for the EEOC.”

Read more of her story here. http://wapo.st/1441OZb