Newark, Ohio Prepares to Ban the Box After Powerful Speeches from Ex-Offenders

By Michael Klazema on 7/23/2015
The news that the town of Newark, Ohio is considering "ban the box" legislation seems like small change when compared to the fact that New York City recently did ban the box for all private employers. After all, based on 2013 Census data, Newark only has a population of 47,777, while NYC is home to more than 8.4 million. Still, the news that Newark is pushing for "ban the box" legislation has national resonance, if only for how the new measures were proposed and presented to local city council members.

Though a city councilman was the person for initially proposing "ban the box" measures for Newark, it was ex-offenders who may have convinced the Newark City Council that those measures are needed. One man who spoke to the council refused to give his name, and instead referred to himself as "Number 373882." As the man's prison identification number, 373882 should have mostly ceased having a bearing on his life the day he was released from prison. Instead, the number has continued to follow him, thanks to questions on job applications that ask for criminal history.

"Once released from jail, prison, or probation, you're faced with being classified as a felon, a law-breaker," the man explained to a committee of Newark City Council members. In the eyes of Number 373882, that classification tells employers that ex-offenders aren't trustworthy, and gives them reason to discard applications on which "the box" is checked. It's "a second punishment by way of sanctions and restrictions," according to the former inmate.

The message to be gleaned from Number 373882's words is that ex-offenders are being discriminated against on the employment circuit. When hiring managers review a job application and see that an applicant has criminal history, that's all they can see going forward. They then presumably don't judge that person based on educational history, work experience, skills, or credentials. Instead, they only see the checked box on the application; they only see the prison identification number; they only see who the applicant in question used to be, not necessarily who they are now.

The proposed legislation in Newark would change that, at least for city jobs. All public employers would be required to remove criminal history queries from their job applications. The goal would be to give ex-offenders a chance to prove themselves and their fitness for certain jobs without having their hiring managers just looking them as criminals. Of course, city employers would still be allowed to run background checks and find out about criminal history later in the hiring process. Still, the hope would be to reduce the focus placed upon criminal history by employers, and increase the focus placed upon other factors more relevant to the job.

The Newark City Council is expected to pass the "ban the box" measure for city employers later this month. Other cities and towns looking to pass similar ordinances or laws, meanwhile, could look to Newark for inspiration. The way in which Number 373882 presented the issue to the City Council committee illustrated just how much ex-offenders are affected, even after they've served their time and earned the right to be free once more. By not giving his name and only emphasizing his prison I.D. number, the ex-inmate was able to shine a light on employment discrimination in much more powerful fashion than simple rhetoric would have afforded.


Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 15 As more states legalize the recreational use of cannabis, they contend with the emergence of new industries surrounding marijuana cultivation and production. 
  • March 14 In most cases, it is easy to determine where an issue might show up on a pre-employment background check. Citations for traffic violations or reckless driving charges will appear on a motor vehicle record check. Verdicts in a civil court case will show on a civil court background check. And criminal convictions—from petty theft to violent felonies—show up on criminal background checks.
  • March 13 How many years back do employment background checks go? This question can have multiple different answers depending on the situation.
  • March 13 A new bill in Florida would require landlords of apartment complexes to present tenants with verifications of employee background checks to give them peace of mind the people working in and around their homes are trustworthy.
  • March 08 Police officers working with the University of Texas at Arlington recently arrested a man who had avoided police capture on a warrant out of Oregon for nearly two decades. The man, whose real name is Daniel Charles Ray Hanson, spent those 17 years using a variety of fake names and identification documents to move around the country, often engaging with educational institutions under false pretenses. Police say Hanson regularly went by at least three different aliases. He sports a rap sheet that stretches back to an arson conviction in 1995. 
  • March 07

    The Future of EEOC Guidance in Texas Is Up in the Air

    The EEOC issued guidance in 2012 warning employers about the dangers of enforcing categorical policies to bar candidates with criminal histories. That guidance is not enforceable in Texas thanks to a recent court ruling.

  • March 05 Vermont is the latest state to restrict employers’ access to and use of social media accounts of employees and applicants. 
  • March 01 In an age of "industry disruptors" turning established business models on their heads, companies such as Uber and Lyft rely on a unique workforce of individuals outside the traditional employer-employee context. Uber calls them "partners" while other businesses refer to them as "independent contractors," the official classification these individuals use for tax purposes. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revealed they had warned a business, Postmates, for misclassifying their staff as independent contractors. In the NLRB's determination, these individuals were employees.
  • February 27 Governor Asa Hutchinson signed House Bill 2216 which amends the employer’s directives regarding a current or prospective employee’s social media account.
  • February 23 A Texas summer camp is in the spotlight after an unflattering investigation from a local news channel. The case has some parents asking what they can do to vet summer camp programs before enrolling their kids.