On January 27, Sen. Rosalyn Dance’s “ban the box” bill, SB 1171, passed the Virginia Senate by a 22-17 vote. The bill proposes to “ban the box” by preventing prospective employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history at the initial employment application stage. The bill was introduced as follows:
“Public employment; inquiries by state agencies and localities regarding criminal convictions, charges, and arrests. Prohibits state agencies from including on any employment application a question inquiring whether the prospective employee has ever been arrested or charged with, or convicted of, any crime, subject to certain exceptions. A prospective employee may not be asked if he has ever been convicted of any crime unless the inquiry takes place after the prospective employee has received a conditional offer of employment, which offer may be withdrawn if the prospective employee has a conviction record that directly relates to the duties and responsibilities of the position. A prospective employee may not be asked if he has ever been arrested or charged with a crime unless the inquiry takes place after the prospective employee has received a conditional offer of employment, which offer may be withdrawn if (i) the prospective employee’s criminal arrest or charge resulted in the prospective employee’s conviction of a crime and (ii) the crime of which he was convicted directly relates to the duties and responsibilities of the position. The prohibition does not apply to applications for employment with law-enforcement agencies or certain positions designated as sensitive or in instances where a state agency is expressly permitted to inquire into an individual’s criminal history for employment purposes pursuant to any provision of federal or state law. The bill also authorizes localities to prohibit such inquiries.”
“This is a jobs bill,” remarked Sen. Dance. “It allows those who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law but who have paid their dues, who have acquired the skills, knowledge, and ability to gain employment, to do so. This increases their opportunity to get a job, and it moves them from being dependent to being independent and gets them back on the tax rolls.”
This ordinance is consistent with recent increases in legislative scrutiny of employment application practices, with many states and localities having enacted similar legislation focusing on an applicant’s criminal history at the initial application stage.
Troutman Sanders will continue to monitor related legislative developments concerning employment background screening and employee hiring.