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The hiring process and criminal records: an FAQ for employers

As a business owner or manager involved in the hiring process, it’s important to know what your rights and obligations are regarding applications with criminal records.

After all, given America’s high incarceration rates, the percentage of people who have served time or had other brushes with the law is remarkably high. And a growing list of governments have passed “ban the box” laws restricting what prospective employers can ask candidates about their criminal history on job applications.

In this post, we’ll use a Q & A format to highlight some of the key fact and issues about the use of criminal records in the hiring process.

How many Americans have criminal records?

Nearly 1 in 3 adult Americans of working age has a criminal record. By comparison, this means there are about as many people with criminal records as there are with four-year college degrees.

The number of Americans who have been arrested is larger than the entire population of either France or Canada.

How many states now have “ban the box” legislation that limits what employers can applicants about criminal history?

California recently became the tenth state to pass ban-the-box legislation.

Does Oregon have a ban-the-box law?

Yes. Oregon has had ban-the-box protections in the law since January 1, 2016.

Oregon’s law prohibits a yes-or-no box on job application forms about criminal history. Oregon employers do, however, have the right to ask about criminal records during the interviews.

But the city of Portland has an ordinance that imposes additional limitations on employers. Under the Portland law, questions about criminal history cannot be asked until an employer makes a conditional job offer.

Los Angeles and Philadelphia are among other cities that have so-called “fair-chance” ordinances.

What implications does the Portland's fair-chance ordinance have for employers?

Complying with the fair-chance ordinance involves additional work for employers in Portland who want to both do the right thing and avoid potential litigation.

This means training hiring mangers on the parameters of the new law, reviewing the way you use background checks and making the hiring processes more individualized.

All of this involves increased documentation. If you have questions about compliance, reach out to a skilled attorney in your area for consultation.

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