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HB 3025 will give qualified job applicants who’ve paid their debts to society
a fair chance at rebuilding their lives
(Salem, Ore.)—March 25, 2015—Community advocates, labor leaders and small business owners testified today at a public hearing held by the House Committee On Business and Labor in support of a proposal to ‘ban the box’. The proposed legislation would make it illegal for all employers in Oregon to use job application forms to ask about criminal history or disqualify an applicant from employment because of a prior conviction, unless the conviction is job-related.
The bill is backed by The Fair Chance for All coalition, a group of more than 50 organizations in Oregon.
A broad group submitted testimony in support of the legislation, including: Tom Chamberlain, President of Oregon AFL-CIO; Midge Purcell, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for Portland Urban League; Patrick Gihring, Director of Adult Workforce Services for Worksystems, Inc.; Theresa Sweeney, an Oregonian with personal experience transitioning from incarceration to the community; and Jim Houser, owner of local small business Hawthorne Auto Clinic.
More than 32,000 people in Oregon are currently incarcerated or on community supervision and face barriers to housing and jobs. Almost 11 percent of incarcerated Oregonians is African American, despite that fact that the state’s overall population is just 2 percent.
“Our criminal justice system convicts and incarcerates African Americans and other people of color in numbers that far exceed our percentage in the state. This inequity is compounded by employment barriers that impact those with criminal histories,” said Purcell.
Employment is one of the most important influences for decreasing recidivism. Two years after release, twice as many employed people with records had avoided running into trouble with the law, compared to their unemployed counterparts. A steady job provides not just financial resource, but also connections to a new community that can help reduce the risk of recidivism.
"Banning the box will allow someone like me to get an interview so that I can show who I am today, not who I was," said Vu. "Potential employers can assess my qualifications for the job and I'm not immediately removed from the applicant pool because of my past mistakes."
The legislation would allow employers to ask about an individual’s conviction history, but just later in the hiring process, after the person has met the minimum qualifications for the job. It would not apply to law enforcement positions and other jobs that, by law, require a criminal background check.
"In Oregon, even as the economy is improving, it is still hard for people with records to find work," said Chamberlain. "Folks with records aren’t getting interviewed and in turn, aren’t getting jobs. That leads to more people recidivating. We can make our communities safer, our incarcerated population smaller and our workforce larger by banning the box.”
“The box” has already been removed from applications for City of Portland jobs in 2014 and Multnomah County jobs in 2007. If the legislature passes HB 3025, Oregon will join more than 50 jurisdictions and 10 states that have already banned the box, including: Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Minnesota, Hawaii, New Mexico and Colorado.
The Portland City Council is considering a similar proposal to ‘ban the box’ which would apply to all employers in Portland. A hearing was held on the resolution earlier this month.