Legislation to help people with criminal records get state government jobs is advancing in the N.C. House.
House Bill 409 unanimously passed the House State Personnel Committee Wednesday and is similar to “ban the box” proposals. It would ban state agencies from asking about an applicant’s criminal record until the person has received an interview.
The requirement wouldn’t apply to private companies, and it wouldn’t apply to law enforcement jobs or positions that “involve direct interaction with minors or the elderly.”
“This gives the opportunity for people to interview the person who’s applying for the job before they discount them,” said Rep. Rena Turner, the Iredell County Republican who sponsored the bill with three other Republicans. “If they have the qualifications for that job, then they need to have the opportunity to be employed. This does not deny anyone the ability to do a record check after they’ve had that initial interview.”
The bill would also require state government hiring managers to consider how much time has passed since an applicant’s criminal conviction, their age at the time, and whether the offense has any relation to the job they’re applying for. And criminal charges that didn’t result in a conviction wouldn’t be a valid reason not to hire an applicant.
Several people who are in rehabilitation programs following a criminal conviction spoke to the House committee and urged them to support the bill.
“It gives me an opportunity to state my situation and get my foot in the door and show the progress I’ve made in life, instead of declining me right up front,” Casey House told legislators.
Karen Brown of Correction Enterprises, which provides job training and work for state prison inmates, also supports the bill. “We know that inmates who can get a job within 90 days are significantly less likely to recidivate,” she said. “The Department of Public Safety is putting significant efforts into re-entry and training of offenders, and this will definitely help with that issue.”
The bill now goes to the House Judiciary III Committee. A separate House bill, sponsored by four Democrats, was filed last month and would enact a “ban the box” law for government jobs in city, county and state agencies.