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

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) — Should Alabamians be forced to disclose whether they have a criminal background on employment applications? One Senator doesn't think so and he is sponsoring a bill that would get that question removed.

The "ban the box" legislation has recently gained traction in other states, but not in Alabama -- yet. Last session, two democratic lawmakers rallied for a similar bill, but so far the bill has not passed out of committee.

Senator Quinton Ross of Montgomery is sponsoring legislation to "ban the box." He says it weeds out individuals who would otherwise be good employees.

 Lawmakers do not want to completely block employers from asking job applicants if they have ever been convicted of a felony, just when the question is asked on a job application form.

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.