Criminal Law – Legislative Update

ban-the-boxOregon is poised sign into law a “ban the box” bill applying to nearly all employers.  The law will prohibit employers from asking about criminal convictions in job applications.  Employers would still be able to request information about criminal convictions in interviews and after giving conditional employment offers.  About one-third of the states have such a law, but most apply only to government employers; only six others have “ban the box” laws applying to private-sector employers.  Public safety and criminal justice agencies, as well as groups hiring unpaid volunteers, would be exempt from the prohibition.

The bill (HB 3025, http://gov.oregonlive.com/bill/2015/HB3025/) has passed through the House and Senate and will be signed by Governor Kate Brown.  Voting on the bill fell largely down party lines, with Democrats supporting the law and Republicans opposing.  Supporters argue that the bill will help break the cycle of reoffending by helping people convicted of crimes reintegrate into society and not turn back to criminal behavior.  Opponents argue that the prohibition will be too burdensome on businesses, hindering their ability to adequately screen employees and creating liability when they hire people convicted of job-related crimes.  There are also concerns about the burden of compliance on businesses that operate in multiple states with different laws.