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SALEM — Oregon will join the ranks of states barring most employers from asking about criminal convictions on their initial job applications.

The House gave final legislative approval on a 34-25 vote Tuesday, June 16, along party lines, after the Senate amended House Bill 3025 and passed it 21-8. The bill goes to Gov. Kate Brown.

About one-third of the states have similar legislation known as “ban the box,” according to the National Employment Law Project. Most of those laws apply only to government employment, but Oregon will join the six other states that extend it to all employers.

“It will break the cycle of people returning to prison because they cannot find a job,” said Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, chairman of the House Business and Labor Committee.

Portland and Multnomah County have such bans applying to government employment. A work group set up by the Portland City Council is considering how the city ordinance, originally adopted last year, may extend to private employers. The bill would supersede it.

The bill was among the top priorities of a coalition of minority groups. Portland-based business groups, while endorsing the concept, sought assurances of flexibility for employers.

Although the question of criminal convictions could not be asked on application forms, employers could still raise it with applicants during interviews — or if there is no interview, when a conditional offer of employment is made.

Under the version amended by the Senate, public safety and criminal justice agencies are exempted from the ban, and the question of criminal history can still be asked of applicants for nonpaid volunteer positions.

The bill also specifies that the ban does not apply if federal and state laws and regulations specify consideration of an applicant’s criminal history.

While the Bureau of Labor and Industries could enforce the law, the amended bill dropped the possibility of individual lawsuits against employers.

Democrats cast all of the votes for the bill in the House; one Democrat was excused. Republicans were unanimous against it.

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