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NEW: Slater Pushes Forward on Effort to ‘Ban the Box’

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

 

A move by Representative Scott Slater would eliminate questions about a person's criminal record from job applications.

A news conference was held today at the State House concerning a legislation that would change Rhode Island's hiring policies by limited bias against individuals with criminal records in city government positions. Legislation being introduced in the General Assembly by Rep. Scott A. Slater in the House of Representatives and by Sen. Harold M. Metts in the Senate would ‘ban the box’ on applications for jobs in Rhode Island, in both public and private sectors.

The legislation would remove from job applications questions such as “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor?” It would allow applicants to explain their previous convictions at the interview stage, if they have been deemed otherwise qualified for the job. It would require employers to only deny applicants based on their criminal histories if the employer determines there is a direct relationship between a job and an applicant’s criminal history. It would clear employers of liability if they hire people with records.

The legislators said they are introducing the bills because they believe employers should emphasize a job applicant’s qualifications rather than past mistakes. “People, including those with a criminal record, just need a chance,” said Representative Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence). “A job is a very important way for them to get that chance to transition back to normal society. Yet many are routinely and immediately screened out, because of the ‘box.’ I don’t think that is right.”

Rep. Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry), a co-sponsor of the House bill, told the news conference that “some of my best employees had criminal records. They worked hard because they valued their jobs. We need to pass ‘Ban the Box’ so people can get a foot in the door and present themselves as a whole package.”

Also participating in the news conference to announce introduction of the bills were Mike Araujo from RI Jobs with Justice , Deacon Jay Parker of the Gospel Tabernacle Church, and representatives of two organizations that helped organize the State House event, Direct Action for Rights & Equality (DARE)  and the RI Coalition to Ban the Box.

DARE is a community-based organization working with low-income families in communities of color for social, economic and political justice. The Coalition to Ban the Box is a coalition of community, public, faith-based and labor groups working to end discrimination against people with criminal records.

The bills, when introduced, will likely be referred to the Committee on Judiciary in the respective chambers.

 

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