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Baltimore bans discriminatory background checks in hiring

People who have criminal records often find trouble getting work--both here in Maryland and across the country. This is because many employers discriminate against those with criminal histories. This can be very unfortunate because it limits the ability of a person to move on from a troubled past. Many people with criminal histories simply made mistakes in the past and are now law-abiding citizens, and many others wear the scarlet letter of a criminal record even though they were only arrested and never actually convicted of a crime. In fact, it has been estimated that one in four Americans has a criminal record.

Some jurisdictions do limit the abilities of employers to discriminate based on criminal history. Last week, The Baltimore City Council decided to pass a "ban the box" bill. The measure bans some employers from asking those who apply for jobs about their criminal histories. The employers will only be able to make such inquiries once a conditional job offer is on the table.

Although it is controversial, the bill passed 10-4. Opponents argue that laws like this one force employers to jump through hoops and sustain extra expenses during the hiring process. Supporters counter that employers do still maintain the right to consider the criminal backgrounds of applicants, but they now are forced to look at the bigger picture by evaluating job candidates based upon their qualifications first.

Baltimore is the only city in the area with such a law on the books, but it has joined the ranks of about 60 other municipalities nationwide that have similar bans. New Jersey is currently considering passing a statewide measure.

Maryland residents who have questions about their employment rights pertaining to criminal history discrimination and other forms of discrimination may benefit from talking to an employment law attorney.

Source: WBAL TV, "Baltimore City Council passes 'ban the box' hiring bill," Kerry Cavanaugh, April 29, 2014

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