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The City Council will consider preventing employers from asking about a job applicant's criminal history until after making an employment offer on Wednesday.

The so-called Ban the Box ordinance is part of a national movement intended to reduce barriers to employment to those with criminal histories. Local business leaders say they support the idea, but are opposed to delaying criminal background checks until after making an employment offer.

The ordinance was introduce by Mayor Charlie Hales. He worries that people are not being hired for jobs that are qualified to perform because of prior conviction that have no relation to the work.

"Many people with criminal records can be valuable employees. Employers who have hired people with records often find that they are excellent employees who are highly motivated to create better lives for themselves," reads the ordinance, which says the routine use of criminal background checks by employers disproportionately affects "historically disadvantaged communities and communities of color."

The proposed ordinance would not apply to businesses with six or fewer employees, or any governments except the city of Portland.

Read the proposed ordinance here.

Leaders of the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs, the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber and the Portland Business Alliance oppose delaying the criminal background check until the very end of the hiring process, however. In a joint March 9 statement, they endorsed the idea but opposed that restriction.

“We absolutely agree with the goal removing barriers to employment individuals with criminal backgrounds, and we agree that banning the box makes sense,” Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber Gale Castillo said in the statement. “However, pushing any opportunity for a criminal background check to the very end of the process, coupled with a private right to legal action if the applicant is not selected, seems to set up a process that could lead to contentious legal fights rather than creating more opportunities for work. There should be a different way to achieve the goals we all agree to, which is greater employment opportunities.”

Read the statement here.

The proposed ordinance lists circumstances employers must consider when deciding whether to disqualify someone from employment because of the results of a criminal background check. They include the nature and gravity of the offense, the time that has elapsed since the offense took place, and the nature of the employment sought.

Under the ordinance, if an employer withdraws a job offer because of the results of a criminal background check, the applicant can request that it be reconsidered. If that happens, the employer must then consider more cirumstances, including the applicants age at the time of conviction, whether the applicant has performed similar work with other employers without incident, the applicants successful participation in education and rehabilitation programs, and character references.

If the employer still withdraws the job offer, the applicant can appeal the denial to the city. If the city finds the withdrawal was not justified, it can fine the employer $1,000 for each violation.

The ordinance creates a .75 position in next year's city budget and seeks $500,000 to educate employers and applicants about the new policy.

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