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Bill to “ban the box” from state job applications gets favorable report in committee

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would remove the box asking, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime,” from state job applications.

The bill is supported by Alabama Appleseed and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“SB198 ensures that the State of Alabama, its agencies, and its political subdivisions cannot ask a prospective employer if that person has been arrested for or convicted of any crime, with certain exceptions. A state employer may ask a prospective employee about his or her criminal background, but only after a conditional offer of employment is made. A state employer may withdraw the offer of employment after learning of the prospective employee’s criminal conviction background if the prospective employee has a conviction that is directly related to the job. SB198 also establishes clear criteria for state agencies to consider during the screening process when evaluating a person’s prior criminal history,” according to information provided by Alabama Appleseed and the SPLC.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is chaired by state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster.

Chairman Ward said that this bill was very important to former state Sen. Quinton Ross, who recently was hired as ASU’s president. It passed the Senate in 2017, but did not get enacted by the House.

The bill is being carried by state Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro.

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“We all voted for this last time,” Singleton said. “I told Senator Ross I told I would carry this. I have talked to the BCA, the DAs, and the Department of Labor about this. Labor has some concerns. I am working on an amendment to address their concerns.”

Ward said that he wanted to move forward on this and get it out of committee, and then the amendment can be added on the Senate floor.

Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, asked if the person doing the interview could ask about the criminal history during the job interview.

Singleton said that they may not inquire during a first interview.

Williams asked, “You have to offer them a job before you even ask?”

Singleton said, “We want to ban the box. You can not ask in the first interview.” This applies to government employers only.

Ward said that he has been talking to business people and many private sector jobs have already voluntarily banned the box.

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SB198 received a favorable report and now moves on to the full Senate.

Alabama Appleseed and the SPLC said that SB198: “Improves the public sector’s ability to recruit the best and brightest;” “Strengthens Alabama’s economy;” “Helps make our communities safer;” “Better ensures a second chance for Alabamians who have already paid their debt to society;” “Reduces disproportionate impact on people of color;” “Protects Alabama from having to hire an individual whose criminal conviction is directly related to the job;” and “Helps protect state employers from claims of discrimination.”

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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