St. Paul, Mn., will stop requiring job applicants to state whether they’ve ever been convicted of a crime, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The immediate goal is to make sure the city doesn’t discriminate against applicants with criminal records, which is prohibited under state law. The broader intent is to give people with minor rap sheets a chance to turn their lives around. “After 9/11, with the increasing number of background checks employers are doing, this has become a problem for people that have made a mistake in their lives,” said Guy Gambill of the Minneapolis-based Council on Crime and Justice. With an increasing number of people moving through the criminal courts – including a disproportionate number of minorities – Gambill said it’s important to make sure ex-cons have access to jobs.
Why, Gambill asks, should someone busted for pot at age 18 be prevented from getting a job 15 years later? In general, more employers are adding questions about an applicant’s criminal background and increasing the scope and depth of criminal background checks, said Joe Schmitt, a labor and employment attorney in Minneapolis. The trend is driven by the rise of legal claims against companies for negligent hiring and the desire to distinguish among applicants as soon as possible. The Council on Crime and Justice has been lobbying cities to implement changes. Gambill said St. Paul’s decision makes it a national leader – so far, only Boston has completely removed the question from city job applications.