This week’s Bad Bill of the Week has the intention of removing a barrier to employment opportunities for people with a criminal record, but like previous Bad Bills relating to employment, this one has unintended consequences that must be pointed out. House Bill 208, Ban the Box, is sponsored by Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford), Garland Pierce (D-Hoke), Rodney Moore (D-Mecklenburg) and would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their criminal record until after a job offer has been made.
As stated in the bill, “it is an unlawful employment practice for any employer to make inquiries of an applicant for employment, or otherwise seek information about the applicant (including through the use of any form or application), relating to whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a criminal offense.”
The bill then states the exceptions to this rule are 1) if the employer makes the criminal record inquiry after a conditional job offer has been extended, and 2) “Where the granting of employment may involve an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public.”
The Commissioner of Labor would be charged with defining categories of employment “where an individual’s past criminal history may involve an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public.”
So what does this mean for employers seeking to hire workers? For those employers unconcerned about an applicant’s criminal record, there would be no impact. For those who are concerned about an applicant’s criminal record, however, it forces them to go through the hiring process only to be forced to wait until after a job offer is extended before they can ask a very important screening question. As any business owner or HR manager can tell you, the hiring process can often be a lengthy and expensive one – involving many interviews and reference checks – that expends significant amounts of company resources.
With unemployment in North Carolina continuing to be fifth-highest in the nation, why do state lawmakers want to make the hiring process even more lengthy and expensive by criminalizing a step employers take to expedite the process?
Forcing businesses to expend more resources in the hiring process means they have fewer resources available to hire workers or increase current worker pay.
Moreover, HB 208 represents yet another intrusion by government into the hiring decisions of employers. This distortion into the labor market can only result in a drag on our economy.
Because it intrudes into the hiring decisions of employers and forces companies to use scarce resources that could be used to hire more workers, yet does little to nothing to accomplish its intended goal, HB 208 is this week’s Bad Bill of the Week.