Raleigh, N.C. — A bill introduced in the House on Monday would prohibit employers from asking job applicants whether they are convicted felons.
House Bill 208, dubbed the Ban the Box Act, would eliminate the check-off box on employment applications asking whether someone has a felony conviction on their record.
"It is a curse," Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, said of a felony conviction. "For the rest of their entire life, they have this on their record, and they can't get jobs, they can't get housing."
Brandon said many municipalities have already eliminated such questions from their applications, and preventing other employers from asking about past crimes would help people reintegrate into society after being released from prison.
"These people have paid their debt to society already," he said. "There are folks who were 21 years old when they got a charge who are 50 years old today who still have that on their record and cannot get a job."
The legislation would permit employers to ask about felony convictions only after they have made a conditional job offer to an applicant or if the person is seeking a job that could place the public or specific individuals at risk.
The state labor commissioner would have to adopt rules designating which jobs may present an unreasonable risk for a convicted felon to hold and what factors employers would need to weigh to determine whether a specific applicant presents a risk.
Any other employer that violates the Ban the Box Act would face a $100 civil penalty.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed two bills Tuesday afternoon dealing with the criminal history of job applicants.
Senate Bill 91 would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about expunged criminal records or face a $500 civil penalty.
Senate Bill 33 would require state licensing boards to weigh the circumstances of a crime – how long ago it occurred, how old the person was and the severity of the crime, for example – in determining whether to deny a professional license.
Both bills are headed to the House.