Bill would bar state from asking applicants about criminal history
Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2018
By Tianna Mosby
Capital News Service
State government could not ask most job seekers criminal history questions on employment applications under a bill passed by the Virginia Senate.
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The Senate approved the “ban the box” bill Friday on a 23-16 vote. All of the Democrats in the Senate voted for SB 252; they were joined by four Republicans.
Suffolk’s legislators split along party lines in the vote. Sens. Louise Lucas and Montgomery Mason, both Democrats, voted for it. Republican Sens. John Cosgrove and Thomas Norment voted against it.
Until recently, job applications forms used by state agencies included a box that asked whether the applicant had ever been arrested, charged or convicted of a crime.
In a 2015 executive order, Gov. Terry McAuliffe had those questions removed from the form. SB 252 essentially would make the executive order a state law. It also would authorize local governments to follow the same policy.
The bill would not apply to law-enforcement agencies and jobs with criminal history inquiry requirements.
SB 252 would allow state agencies to ask prospective employees about previous arrests, charges and convictions after a conditional job offer has been made. The agency could withdraw the offer if the convictions relate directly to the job.
Democratic Sens. Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg, Adam Ebbin of Alexandria and Jennifer McClellan of Richmond sponsored the bill.
Dance said the criminal history questions on job application forms hurt the employment prospects of people who have run afoul of the law.
“Every Virginian should have the peace of mind of knowing that their application will not be rejected based off of a past mistake,” Dance said.
She said the bill is “about getting people back to work” and reducing recidivism rates for people who have been convicted of crimes.
Ebbin said the measure “gives everyone a fair chance at employment.”
“Those people who have paid their debts to society should be given a second chance,” Ebbin said.
SB 252 now goes to the House for consideration. Two Democratic delegates are sponsoring companion bills in the House: HB 600, by Delegate Betsy Carr of Richmond; and HB 1357, by Delegate Lashrecse Aird of Petersburg. Those bills have been referred to the House General Laws Committee.
Last year, the General Assembly considered two “ban the box” bills. Both died in the House General Laws Committee.