Senate passes bill to help convicted criminals land job interviews

A bill approved by the Senate would make this box disappear from most job applications.
A bill approved by the Senate would make this box disappear from most job applications.

On Saturday, in a 44-16 vote, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill intended to make it easier for convicted criminals to land job interviews.

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The so-called "ban the box" bill would require most private employers to follow the public sector in eliminating the box on applications asking applicants to disclose whether they've ever been convicted of a crime. Roughly one-quarter of Minnesotans have been.

Employers could still ask applicants about their criminal record at interviews, but the bill would make it more difficult for employers to weed out applicants prior to the interviewing phase.

The bill received bipartisan support and wasn't opposed by the Chamber of Commerce, though a faction of conservative Republicans spoke out against it.

One of them, Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, tried but failed to amend the bill so that "ban the box" would only apply to criminals whose convictions happened more than a decade ago.

"If they come out of prison the day before, are you saying, employers shouldn't know before the interview?" Hall said, according to the Star Tribune.

Another opponent, Julianna Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said the bill amounted to "feel-good legislation" that "doesn't accomplish anything except to put brand-new regulations on Minnesota businesses," MinnPost reports.

But most senators agreed with Sen. Bobby Joe Champion's argument that if an applicant "shows the qualifications and skills," they deserve an interview.

"Those who have offended will have a greater opportunity to become responsible and taxpaying community members," Champion, a Democrat from Minneapolis, said, adding that "there's nothing that says an employer is bound to hire anyone that they don't quite feel comfortable with."

A companion bill awaits a vote in the House. About 40 states already have some form of "ban the box" on the books.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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