Should employers be allowed to ask job applicants if they are convicted of a crime?

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) — Two Democratic Alabama lawmakers want to introduce a bill to “ban the box” —  that little square on a job application that you have to check if you’ve been convicted of a crime.

 Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma told The Anniston Star in a report this week, he does not want to completely block employers from asking job applicants if they have ever been convicted of a felony. But when the question is asked on a job application form, Sanders says people with past convictions never even get a chance.

According to  the Anniston Star report, both lawmakers joined other protesters at the capital Tuesday for a protest over the issue.

“People were convicted of something 30 years ago still have to check the box,” Sanders said. “It really is a life sentence.”

Senate Minority Leader Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, has also thrown support behind the proposal.

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma (File)

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma (File)

According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, a dozen states have passed similar laws.

There are an estimated 70 million U.S. adults with arrests or convictions that make it difficult, if
not impossible, to find work given the proliferation of employment background checks, according to the report. The likelihood of a callback for an interview for an entry-level  position drops off by 50 percent for those applicants with an arrest or conviction history.

Huntsville based employment attorney Teri Mastando says there are pros and cons for both employers and applicants if the laws do change.

“It will give applicants a better shot at explaining their story, but on the other hand it will put a burden on employers to update their applications,” Mastando says.

Lawmakers intend to introduce a “ban the box” bill in the next legislative session, according to the report in the Anniston Star.

(Some information in this story used with permission from The Anniston Star)

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