D.C. Council amends legislation to protect job applicants’ criminal records

The D.C. City Council is considering legislation that would change how employers in the District can evaluate prospective employees’ criminal records.

The bill would prevent employers from discriminating against applicants on the basis of their criminal record—banning the “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” checkbox on job applications.

Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) will bring the Fair Criminal Record Screening Act of 2014 before the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Monday. The bill was initially introduced to the City Council on January 7, 2014 but has since been amended from its previous drafts. The one being presented to the committee allows employers to take the prospective employee’s criminal record after a first interview (rather than after a formal employment offer—the provision in previous bill drafts).

Other changes in the bill include the removal of a job applicant’s right to sue after suspected discrimination based on criminal record. Now, the D.C. Office of Human Rights will be in charge of all investigations.

All of the changes came after the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and organizations representing restaurants, hospitals and universities testified in February, pushing for the kinds of changes now present in the bill. Wells conceded to the changes in an effort to get the legislation passed. His term ends in January, 2015.

Advocates for the bill were disappointed by the changes. Marina Streznewski, executive director of the D.C. Jobs Council, told the Post that not allowing the employer to see a job applicant’s criminal record until after a job offer was important because discrimination would be clearer if an offer was rescinded. “Before [a job offer], it is very, very easy for an employer to say they did not hire an applicant for any other reason … I understand the politics, but I’m still disappointed.”

Photo: Flazingo Photos via Flickr

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