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City of Petersburg bans the box on job application (felony conviction)

Sep 26, 2013 | by admin

Another win for “earned” second chance in Virginia. Thanks Evette Roots with Pathways

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City bans box on job application
By F.M. Wiggins (Staff Writer
Published: September 17, 2013

PETERSBURG – What many residents believe is a hurdle to gainful employment with
the city may soon no longer stand in their way. City Council passed a resolution
at the Sept. 3 regular meeting to remove a simple box and language on
preliminary employment applications asking whether or not the applicant has been
convicted of a felony. Council voted unanimously to “ban the box” on a motion by
Councilman W. Howard Myers. Myers said he believes by removing the box from the
employment application, a level playing field is created for job applicants.
“It’s a psychological barrier,” Myers said of the box, adding that many people
believe that they won’t get a fair evaluation if they check the box.

The councilman has been a strong proponent of restoration of voting rights in
addition to the “ban the box” measure.
The campaign to “ban the box” in Petersburg started almost two years ago and
was, according to Myers, spearheaded by Evette Roots. Roots is the employment
and education placement coordinator at Pathways, a community development
non-profit in Petersburg. Roots and members of the community gathered more than
1,200 signatures and presented those signatures to members of City Council
during a July council meeting. “Petersburg residents believe that having to
check the box on preliminary employment applications has prevented qualified
residents with criminal histories from being considered for employment,” Roots
said.  Roots said she thinks this change will allow those qualified individuals
to apply for employment and have the possibility of an interview to present
themselves, creating a more level playing field.

Petersburg joins Newport News, Richmond, Norfolk and Portsmouth in removing the
criminal history language from the preliminary employment application for
employment with city government. Myers said even without the box on the
application form, some positions, particularly those in “sensitive areas,” will
still have to undergo a background check, something confirmed by Claristine J.
Moore, the city’s director of human resources. Myers added he doesn’t believe
the change to the application process will have a negative effect on the city.
“The city does hire persons with imperfect backgrounds,” he said, adding that
the decision has worked well for the other cities in the state that have adopted
the practice.  Myers said he also believes the city’s actions should set the
tone for other employers in Petersburg. “Hopefully, this will place the value on
the individual rather that some past infraction,” Myers said. “This resolution
is a good step in the right direction for those individuals who wish to return
home and be a productive citizen,” Roots said in a statement about the
resolution approved by City Council.

Roots said the criminal history question is a barrier because studies with the
National Employment Law Project show that 1 in 4 Americans have some type of
criminal history. “In Petersburg, those numbers may be higher, creating a larger
pool of applicants who are disenfranchised and unable to obtain employment,”
Roots said. The removal of the box from the application forms will “help to
encourage employment and stability within the community which will help to
decrease recidivism.”
The changes to the application form will be in place by the beginning of
December, according to Moore.

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