A discussion initiated by Mayor Gillum on December 15, 2014 about eliminating criminal background questions from government employment applications may be headed to the full City Commission in January.
On December 16, 2014, local TV station WTXL reported that “Mayor Andrew Gillum met with local leaders …about ways to improve the application process for government positions. Mayor Gillum suggested those who are interested not be asked about their criminal history when they first apply.”
Tallahassee Reports has learned that the issue, referred to as “Ban the Box”, is listed as an agenda item for the January 14, 2015 City Commission meeting.
According to banthebox.org, “the campaign started in 2004 after a series of Peace and Justice Community Summits identified job and housing discrimination as huge barriers to our successfully returning to our communities after jail or prison. The campaign challenges the stereotypes of people with conviction histories by asking employers to choose their best candidates based on job skills and qualifications, not past convictions.”
The website also reports that over 45 cities and counties, including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, and San Francisco have removed the question regarding conviction history from their employment applications. Some cities and counties and the state of Massachusetts have also required their vendors and private employers to adopt these fair hiring policies.
Critics of “Ban the Box” include the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). “It’s a kind of one-size-fits-all, heavy-handed mandate that presupposes politicians and lawyers know better how to assess job applicants than the people who are doing the hiring,” said Jack Mozloom, a spokesman for the NFIB, told NBC News. “Small business owners have much to lose here. They have their own customers to protect, their own financial information to protect, their own products and liability.”
Tallahassee Reports has also learned that Mayor Andrew Gillum’s employer, People for the Amercian Way, is a supporter of the “Ban the Box” movement through their leadership program called Young Elected Officials Network (YEO Network).
Mayor Gillum is listed as the Executive Director of the YEO.
The YEO lists “Ban the Box” as a target issue for local governments and gives as an example the ordinance adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia. Text here.
The District of Columbia ordinance, adopted in 2012, is not limited to government employment. One section reads:
“In connection with the employment of any person, it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for a private employer to… Make any inquiry about a person regarding any criminal conviction prior to making a conditional offer of employment..”
In addition, the ordinance supported by YEO states that “following the extension of a conditional offer of employment, an employer may only withdraw the conditional offer for a legitimate business reason.”
The City of Tallahassee employment application currently includes a questionnaire that addresses, US citizenship, veterans preference, criminal background, registration for selective service, and contact with current employer.
When asked by TR if the City’s initiative would include private companies that do work for the City, Ellen Blair, the Human Resources Director with the City of Tallahassee, said ” that has not been decided yet…We are still working on the agenda item.”
When asked if Mayor Gillum initiatied this issue, Ms. Blair said ” I get my direction from the City Manager.”