A bill that would make it easier for people with criminal records to get state government jobs passed the N.C. House Tuesday in a 98-14 vote.
House Bill 409 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.” Supporters say former criminals are often rejected immediately in job searches.
“If we keep stuffing them down and not taking their applications, then how can we expect them to do any better?” said Rep. Rena Turner, an Iredell County Republican and sponsor of the bill. “I don’t want to sentence them to a life of crime. I think they need a chance.”
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. Criminal charges that didn’t result in a conviction wouldn’t be a valid reason not to hire an applicant.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican who was once a state personnel manager, said the bill is well-intentioned but could cause problems. He noted that while bill does exempt some types of positions, many more state jobs involve access to sensitive computer systems and data.
“I have some very serious trepidation in not knowing up front ... what this person’s criminal record is,” Dollar said. “It’s going to be very cumbersome on a hiring process in state government that is quite cumbersome already.”
Other lawmakers pointed out that hiring managers can still consider an applicant’s criminal record before making the final decision.
“The bill doesn’t hide anything,” said Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican. “You sometimes look for reasons and ways to get that pile of resumes down, and anything on it that’s out of the norm, you’re going to trash that resume. The problem is you lose some good folks.”
The bill now goes to the Senate. 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.