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Advocates Hope to "Ban the Box" For All Virginia Employers

When lawmakers return to Richmond next month, they’ll consider a bill to limit when employers can ask prospective hires about their criminal histories.

This month the new law went into place in Virginia, banning state agencies from asking potential employees about their criminal histories until they get to the interview stage.

Phil Hernandez at the Commonwealth Institute says that delay does not hide anyone's criminal record. It just creates some guardrails for how people should assess a criminal history. 

“How long ago did this offense take place? Is the offense related to the job that this person is seeking? And what is the evidence of this person’s rehabilitation? If you look at all those factors together it’s a much better process, and ultimately I think helps employers make a better call about who would be a good employee,” he says.

Delegate Mark Cole is a Republican from Fredericksburg, and he says employers will end up making offers to people who will never end up landing the job anyway. 

“And the offer will be contingent on passing the background check, and then if there is any criminal record that comes back on the background check they will withdraw the offer of employment," Cole explains. "So all this does is waste the employers time and the employees time.”

The bill banning the box for state agencies passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan votes, so advocates feel they’re well situated to extend the idea to the private sector during the special session in August.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.