Claiming those who've served time in prison face employment discrimination, activists across the nation have launched a "Ban the Box" campaign, trying to block questions on applications dealing with criminal history. And that movement has arrived in Syracuse. YNN's Bill Carey reports on the tough response from businesses.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- When Myron Isaac, who has a criminal record, sees the familiar question on an application, he knows his application is going nowhere.
“It's thrown into a pile of non-available employees. Instead of actually giving that person an opportunity to, like everyone else, be asked the question in person. Sometimes you won't even get an interview,” said Myron Isaac, who is a “Ban the Box” supporter.
Common councilors in Syracuse are now studying a potential ban on the question of past convictions. But, while most of the more than two dozen cities who've adopted a "Ban the Box" law have limited it to city hiring and hiring by companies with city contracts, Syracuse lawmakers want the prohibition to extend to any company doing business in the city. And that has business leaders worried about costs, as well as the impact.
“Whether it's defense contractors, where people need a security clearance. Whether it's people in the education community. I've heard this morning from not-for-profits that are involved in nursing who are really concerned about the impact that this will have on their customers. Their ability to put people who they have confidence in those jobs is critically important,” said Robert Simpson, CenterState CEO President.
Proponents say the bill doesn't outlaw background checks. They say postponing the question on criminal records allows everyone an equal chance to be interviewed and considered for a job offer.
“One thing that can't be denied is the automatic denial that happens a majority of the time when people see that a person has checked the box in regard to having a brush with the law in their past,” said Khalid Bey, (D) Syracuse Common Councilor.
The supporters also claim that the new regulation would simply bring local companies in line with new federal and state rules on discrimination against those with criminal histories.
“Many, many employers in New York State, whether they realize it or not, are out of compliance and their necks are out there, in terms of potential liability,” said Alan Rosenthal, Center for Community Alternatives.
Work on the law is just beginning. Councilors plan hearings in the coming weeks. They are offering no timetable on when a final bill will be ready for a vote.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says councilors should have spent much more time discussing the "Ban the Box" bill before putting it on the agenda for their study session. The mayor says she will closely study any final bill before saying whether she would sign it into law.