Cleveland Bans the Box from City Job Applications Asking Applicants about Felony Criminal Convictions

In an effort to provide fair employment opportunities for ex-convicts, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson has “banned the box” from City of Cleveland job and civil service testing applications by removing the checkbox used by job applicants to indicate whether or not they have felony convictions, according to a press release on the city’s website. Cleveland is now one of only 28 cities/counties across the country to “ban the box.”

“I have, in the past, asked for other employers to give those convicted of a felony a fair shot at obtaining employment,” Mayor Jackson stated in the press release, which also indicated that the change in policy means that only finalists for a position with the city will get a background check. “I hope that others will consider banning the box on job applications.  By removing this question, applicants can be sure that they will not be automatically excluded for consideration for a job because of their past mistakes.”

A July 2011 Resource Guide from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) – ‘Ban the Box: Major U.S. Cities and Counties Adopt Fair Hiring Policies to Remove Unfair Barriers to Employment of People with Criminal Records’ – lists the following cities and counties as having already “banned the box” asking applicants about felony convictions:

  • Alameda County, CA
  • Austin, TX
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Boston, MA
  • Bridgeport, CT
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Detroit, MI
  • Hartford, CT
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Kalamazoo, MI
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Multnomah County, OR
  • New Haven, CT
  • Norwich, CT
  • Oakland, CA
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Providence, RI
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • St. Paul, MN
  • Travis County, TX
  • Washington, DC
  • Worcester, MA

As reported earlier in the ESR News Blog ‘Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Holds Meeting on Use of Criminal Records for Employment Screening Background Checks,’ the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the agency of the U.S. government that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination – held a meeting in July 2011 focusing on the use of criminal records by employers for background checks and examined arrest and conviction records as a hiring barrier. For information about that meeting, visit: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/7-26-11/index.cfm.

Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of accredited background check company Employment Screening Resources (ESR) and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ submitted a letter for public comment to the EEOC after the meeting. In the letter, Rosen wrote that “the pre-employment screening industry recognizes that unless ex-offenders receive a second chance, we stand the risk as a society of creating a class of permanently unemployed and employable individuals.  The results are not only devastating to the ex-offenders and their families, but it also places a substantial strain on societal resources. However, it is just as important to understand that innocent people have the right to be safe in their workplaces and everyday lives.”

In seeking to balance these competing interests, Rosen wrote that he is hopeful the EEOC will recognize there are some “real world” issues that need to be considered, including: 

  • Employers face significant risk if they hire a person who is dangerous, unfit, unqualified or dishonest is hired.
  • A professional background screening firm – also known as a Consumer Reporting Agency or CRA – operates under the strict standards of federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) based upon the job applicant’s written consent, as opposed to data aggregators that sell background check data to anyone with a credit card.
  • Background screening firms are NOT the employment police, but professionals that gather relevant information so employers can make intelligent decisions.
  • The background screening industry as a whole has been the primary reason why employers have become aware of the EEOC position on the overly board or automatic use of criminal records.
  • The issue of inaccurate criminal records comes primarily from the data aggregator firms.
  • Over 140 background screening firms have joined an industry group called “Concerned CRAs” (http://www.concernedcras.com/) that opposes the use of databases provided by data aggregators for employment purposes, without first reconfirming that the information is currently complete, accurate and up-to-date.  

The letter from Lester Rosen to the EEOC is available at the ‘Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Use of Criminal Records for Employment’ page at http://www.esrcheck.com/EEOC-and-the-Use-of-Criminal-Records-for-Employment.php. For information about background checks, visit the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) website at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR streamlines the screening process and reduces administrative overhead though its proprietary technology solutions.  ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), a distinction held by less than two percent of all screening firms. This important recognition was achieved by successfully passing a third party audit demonstrating compliance with the NAPBS Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about ESR, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/CityofCleveland/Home/PressRelease/prdetail?id=11028.
http://www.nelp.org/page/-/SCLP/2010/BantheBoxcurrent.pdf?nocdn=1.
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/7-26-11/index.cfm.