Sunday, February 20, 2011

Detroit Area Group Wants To Ban Employers From Asking If Applicant Is A Felon - What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The Detroit News: Group pushes banning felony question on job applications

A group that helps ex-convicts re-enter society is working to get more Metro Detroit communities to "ban the box" on job applications that asks about felony convictions.

The Macomb County branch of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative, or MPRI, is organizing an effort to get municipal governments to stop screening out job candidates based solely on their criminal history.

A growing list of cities in Michigan already has done so, including Detroit, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Nationally, dozens of major cities — including Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Memphis; Minneapolis; San Francisco; and Seattle — also have done away with the question.
Its not like those cities don't have healthy populations of felons and crime rates to with them, eh?

In a bizarre twist, the advocates of getting employers to not ask the felony question up front claim not asking will let the felons explain their crime.

How employers will know to ask about the details of the applicant's felony if they're not allowed to ask if the person has been convicted of a felony raises a few issues.

Not to mention the potential liability an employer may take on in hiring a felon, especially for certain offenses, especially when an argument is made that they should have known by asking up front.

Employers don't think this a great idea:
Employers have had the question on job applications for decades and use it to screen candidates, said Michael Burns, executive vice president for the American Society of Employers. The Livonia-based group is a nonprofit that has provided programs and consulting services to human resource professionals since 1902.

"(New hires) have an impact on everyone else in a workplace and employers want people who are going to contribute positively," he said. "They have to decide whether someone who's made bad choices in their lives is someone they want coming in contact with their other employees and their customers."

However, Burns said parolees aren't a protected class of job candidate and employers have a right to know up front if prospective hires have a criminal past. Many employers will still hire applicants with criminal records once they learn what type of offense was committed, he said.

"Employers have a right to the information and how they use it is completely up to them," Burns said. "A criminal record isn't something that should be hidden from employers."
So far its not, but given the efforts to make felons a protected class, that day may not be far off.

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