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Some Portland business leaders say they support a proposal by Mayor Charlie Hales to prevent employers from asking about criminal convictions on job application forms.


But the leaders say employers need to be able to conduct criminal background checks before making a job offer.

Hales will report to the council on his work in support of a citywide "ban the box" policy at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11.

“Portland’s employers are committed to creating job opportunities for everyone. At the same time, they must balance a need to ensure the safety of their employees and their customers by thoroughly screening job applicants. Banning the box makes sense, but employers need flexibility to review applicant backgrounds during the interview process when they believe it is necessary given the nature of the job,” Portland Business Alliance President and CEO Sandra McDonough said Monday.

Agreeing with McDonough were Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs founder Sam Brooks and Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber President Gale Castillo.

“We absolutely support the goal of this effort. We want to see more people have opportunities for quality employment. But we also believe that private employers must be at the table as the policy is written so that the result works for all parties,” said Brooks.

“We absolutely agree with the goal removing barriers to employment individuals with criminal backgrounds, and we agree that banning the box makes sense. However, pushing any opportunity for a criminal background check to the very end of the process, coupled with a private right to legal action if the applicant is not selected, seems to set up a process that could lead to contentious legal fights rather than creating more opportunities for work. There should be a different way to achieve the goals we all agree to, which is greater employment opportunities,” said Castillo.

The 2015 Oregon Legislature is considering a statewide ban the box policy. According to the three business organizations, 79 state and local jurisdictions have enacted “ban the box” rules, but of those only 14 apply them to private employers. And of those 14, only three prohibit criminal background checks until a conditional offer has been made, and only two permit private rights of action. Most allow the checks after an initial screening or interview.

“We understand that many qualified individuals are turned away from potential employment simply because they honestly disclosed a criminal history on an employment application. Banning the box shifts the conversation about criminal histories off the application and into the interview process, so that applicants and potential employers will have an opportunity to discuss the circumstances, which will enable the employers make a decision whether the criminal background should be a determining factor for a particular job,” said Brooks.

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