The Albany County Legislature has taken the final step to "ban the box" on county job applications. They've made it official.
Discriminating against an individual because of a criminal history is illegal, but advocates say it remains a stigma when an employer is considering making a hire. The Center For Law and Justice in Albany did a survey several years ago, asking employers whether they would consider someone with a conviction record for employment, and 70 percent of them said no. Alice Green is the Center's director. "What we really have to do is find some way of allowing people with conviction records to be considered for jobs on the same basis as other people."
That concept is now reality in Albany County: Monday night by a 32 to 3 vote, legislators voted to "ban the box" — that little check box appearing on county job applications inquiring about an applicant's criminal history.
County Legislator Doug Bullock says too many people with criminal records have been treated unfairly. "People are automatically excluded from employment if that box is checked 'yes.' If you got a hundred applications and an HR person is going over all the applications they can eliminate that 'yes box' for people immediately. That's one of the practices that have happened before, y'know, in the county and elsewhere.”
Bullock admits sometimes people lie and don't check the box, and that has its consequences. "A person in the county who had been working 20 years had checked 'no' on the box and subsequently they found out that the person was lying, and they fired the person after 20 years of exemplary service where the person actually became a supervisor in the county, and got fired without even going into the background of the offense, but just because they lied on the application, by checking 'no.' Quite frankly, Dave, a lot of people do that just to get a job, because they know that the box is a screening mechanism for a lot of employers and they're automatically excluded once they check that box."
County Executive Dan McCoy says with the advent of “Local Law N,” Albany follows several other New York counties that have also passed similar laws. "It's something I did last year in July of 2016. And they're making it official now, by making it so that people have an opportunity in regardless, whoever, down the road, becomes County Executive from the legislature that they'll have to follow a process to put the box back in there. But I do wanna let your listeners know that there are certain cases that the box still will be there. If you apply to be like a sheriff for the sheriff's department, nursing home, probation, there's federal laws and state laws that we have to follow that when people go for certain jobs there's certain things they have to say, that they have a criminal record or they had some issue in their past. But, for every other job in the county, since July of last year, when I took it off, no one had to check the box. And they made it official last night and I'm hoping the Senate and Assembly do the same thing and follow our lead here in Albany County and make this statewide."
Lawmakers are hoping the new law can eventually be amended so that the box would be banned on ALL job applications IN the county, not just the ones offering county jobs.