Bill banning questions about criminal records on public sector job applications likely to pass

Legislation is moving along in the Ohio General Assembly that would ban public employers from asking about past criminal convictions on initial job applications, (referred to as "banning the box,") the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. HB 56, or the Ohio Fair Hiring Act, has broad bipartisan support, including primary sponsors Representatives Kirk Schuring, a republican, and Stephen Slesnick, a democrat, both of Canton, as well as several representatives from the Cincinnati area. An amended bill passed the Senate on Wednesday with a vote of 32-1 and the House subsequently approved the amendments, 91-1.

The bill prohibits public employers from including a box on job applications asking about convictions in order to avoid deterring those with criminal records from applying. Public employers could still conduct background checks later in the hiring process, but the bill would eliminate the initial barrier that might lead employers to automatically rule out qualified candidates. This would only apply to public employers, not private. The bill also clarifies that independent providers, such as home health nurses and aides under the Medicaid waiver program, do not qualify as public employees and would not be subject to the law.

Additionally, the bill expands the current law that permits sealing the record of a crime when the victim is 18 or older to situations where the victim is 16 or 17, as long as the conviction is not for non-payment of child support and meets other criteria.

The Enquirer reports that Governor Kasich already "banned the box" for state hiring purposes in June. The state also now considers other factors in determining whether a conviction should bar employment, including "the age of the offense, its relatedness to the job, and evidence of rehabilitation," according to the National Employment Law Project. The state policy and the pending legislation both have the support of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative.

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