People applying for a job in Broward County government will no longer be initially asked if they’ve been arrested or have a criminal background.
Commissioners unanimously voted to “ban the box,” a phrase that refers to the check box on employment applications that asks about a person’s past criminal wrong doing.
“I think we are leading the way here by setting an example that we ought to ensure everyone has an opportunity to provide for themselves. We’re talking about people who have paid their dues, are back into society and want to provide for themselves and their families,” said Broward Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, who first brought the ordinance to the Board for approval. Mayor Marty Kiar and Commissioner Mark Bogen also sponsored the ordinance.
The new law means that a person wouldn’t be asked about a prior criminal record or authorization for a background check until they’re among a pool of potential finalists for a particular job.
“What we want to do is ensure that opportunities are open for all,” said Commissioner Mark Bogen.
“The fair thing to do is to give anybody who is looking for a job, the opportunity to apply for a job. There has to be a fair and consistent process,” said Commissioner Chip LaMarca.
“I’m fine with banning the box, but it may be delaying the inevitable. As long as we narrow the list down to a pool of qualified applicants first and then do a background check, I’m good with this,” said Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief.
“If you do the background check and substantiation of all of the information on an application then you are making it fair on numerous levels. You have a pool of people, everybody gets a background check and then you go from there,” said Commissioner Beam Furr.
If an applicant is among those considered a potential finalist for a position and a background check reveals a criminal history, the person would be given a copy of the findings (as allowed by law) and an opportunity to respond and offer mitigating circumstances.
The “Ban the Box” ordinance does not apply if in conflict with federal or state law. Some jobs are exempt from the new ordinance including positions at the airport, seaport or those that involve working with children and other vulnerable populations.