Ban the Box is Bad Business, No Matter Where

Muddy Box TurtleLame duck Portland Mayor Charlie Hales doesn’t think the Oregon legislated law that forbids companies asking about criminal history before a job is offered doesn’t go far enough.  Brace yourself for increased costs for social engineering that puts your business at increased risk.
In the same article from The Oregonian, the mayor of Portland is quoted from an interview that explains exactly what he wants to achieve and why.

“You look at the combined effects of race and recidivism and the stigma that comes with having been in the criminal justice system,” Hales said, “and it’s no wonder that we haven’t moved the needle much. We need to do some overcorrection. – Charlie Hales, Mayor of Portland”

Portland, like many US cities, has its own local flavor of race relations problems. Portland struggles with its image of being The Whitest City in America and by struggles I mean the city government hates the idea. It is easy to see the cynically sad message of Mayor Hales that its low population of African Americans translates into low representation in the workforce, and that this intersects with criminal history being a reason why there are few African Americans working for the City of Portland.

Mayor Hales proposal goes far beyond the recent law passed by the Oregon legislature that delays asking about criminal background until an interview. But lets look first at the Oregon solution, because it is bad for business too.

Hiring people costs money. If someone is coming into an interview, they’ve already been vetted enough for that step. That means decision makers or HR staff spend time reviewing resumes and formulating lists of job candidates. Many companies recognize that these processes can cost a lot of money. Once you’ve brought someone into an interview, you have already determined who else is not being granted an interview. Once you schedule that interview and you find out someone has a criminal history that you believe makes them unfit for the position, it means your pool of final candidates is smaller, or you have schedule more interviews until you find someone without that problematic background.

The Portland Business Alliance isn’t happy with Mayor Hales, and wants to see the effects of the state law before considering Hale’s additions – forcing employers to take special considerations about any criminal history, and also outsourcing the work to the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Because companies have to give special interpretation in this process and, because Hales has so directly connected the Portland proposal to issues of race, this also opens up companies to yet more potential lawsuits and complaints.

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