Lancaster makes three: no criminal records question on job applications


     Starting today, the city won’t ask prospective City Hall workers about their criminal records at the outset of the application process.

    Lancaster is the third city in Pennsylvania and seventieth nationally to cut criminal history questions from public employee job applications.The others are Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which also won’t do business with contractors unless they follow the same practice.A few cities – including Baltimore and Washington, D.C. – take it even further by requiring any private business in their bounds to delete the questions.Lancaster’s policy applies only to the city’s hiring of public workers except police and firefighters – not private contractors or locally-based companies, according to City Councilwoman Danene Sorace.Sorace says she’s not sure extending the rule to any private company is within the city’s power.”The basic premise is the same: you want to provide the broadest possible candidate pool, and be judged on basis of whether a good match for the job,” Sorace says.Lancaster’s policy took effect today, says Sorace.The goal isn’t to do away with background checks during the hiring process.

    Sorace says the point is to avoid automatically rejecting a prospective hire due to a past crime and instead consider the circumstances of each case.The National Employment Law Project cites a body of supportive research, such as one study showing ex-offenders are less than half as likely to be called for a job interview.To incentivize ex-offender hiring, the federal government offers insurance and tax credits for private companies because employment is such a critical component of recidivism prevention. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also has started giving guidance on the matter; mainly, that employers should weigh applicants’ past crimes against their qualifications in accordance with how much criminal act bears on job responsibilities and how recently it occurred.Pittsburgh’s policy includes giving a written explanation to applicants rejected later during the hiring process due to their criminal records.

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