Ban the Box
Ban the Box has passed!
RI has now become the 10th state to pass Ban the Box legislation! Governor Lincoln Chaffee signed the bill on July 15, 2013, and the law went into effect January 1, 2014.
This law makes it possible for thousands of job seekers, who have records, to get their foot in the door by removing the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” from job applications and postponing this question until later in the hiring process! But this new law doesn’t just remove a question off of a piece of paper.
What we did sends a new signal to our state and those with records who are trying to make an honest living: that we are more than a record, that we all have the right to feed our families, and that we have a great deal to offer our communities. And this could not have happened without your hard work!
Banning the Box Makes Our Community Safer and Stronger
It is well established that the path to stability is through employment. Studies show that this question often has no relation to the job itself, drastically reduces the applicant's chance of a job interview, and serves to eradicate hope among a growing segment of the community.
A famous Milwaukee study found that white applicants received callbacks 35% of the time, but only 17% with a felony record. African-American applicants went from 15% to 4%, respectively. If only 4 out of 100 African-American Rhode Islanders with a felony can even get an interview, it is clear that the chances of honest employment are slim.
Representative Scott Slater has sponsored H 5101 and Senator Metts has sponsored a companion bill, S 224 in the Senate. This legislation will ban the box on job applications, delying the question until the interview, when people have the opportunity to explain themselves in person. The proposed law allows "the box" to remain in particular situations where state law bars people with certain felonies from holding particular jobs. Anastasia Williams, Chair of the House Committee on labor is cosponsoring H 5101 and Senators Crowley, Jabour, Perry and Miller are cosponsors of S 224.
By allowing applicants the opportunity to explain themselves in person, this bill also gives employers a chance to meet and interview someone who could become their hardest working employee.
The "Ban the Box" legislation won't create new jobs, but it will increase opportunity for the thousands of Rhode Islanders with a felony conviction, who make up nearly 25% of our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. Many of these convictions represent people who have battled mental health struggles, substance abuse issues or are still paying for youthful actions.
This legislation sends a message that our society believes in reintragion, forgiveness, and an end to debts paid to society. A working community is a safe community. Our organizing work to pass Ban the Box legislation in the House (H5101) and Senate (S224) is the fight to elminate one barrier for those in pursuit of honest work.
What HB5101 DOES:
*Allow applicants to explain their felony convictions at the interview stage, if they have been deemed otherwise qualified for the job;
*Stop public view of arrests and dismissed charges;
*Require an employer to put in writing, whenever the felony conviction is basis for denying employment, and refer to the specific conviction(s);
*Allow an applicant to present evidence about the accuracy and/or relevance of the report;
What HB5101 DOESN’T do:
*Will not override any law that mandates people with felonies, or certain felonies, from working in particular occupations- (children, elderly, financial, etc.);
*Will not force employers to hire felons.