Excerpted from The Oakland Press By Mark Cavitt

Oakland County has “banned the box.”

On June 12, the county board of commissioners approved a resolution, by party line vote, that prohibits the county from inquiring about someone’s criminal history during the pre-employment screening process.

Beginning Aug. 1, only applications for jobs that require a pre-employment background check, either by law or statute, will contain a criminal history box. All other applications will not contain the box.

Lori Taylor, deputy director of human resources, said this change in hiring policy will delay the background check until after a formal job offer is made and interviews are complete. All formal job offers will remain contingent on employment physical and successful completion of a background check.

Oakland County Commissioner Nancy Quarles, who sponsored the resolution, said this initiative was about giving everyone an equal opportunity for employment no matter their background.

“I looked at this as a fairness opportunity for those who have served their time for a crime or incident they were involved in,” said Quarles. “From the research I’ve done, people tend to return to crime and jail because they aren’t able to find a job.”

A total of 34 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted similar fair chance policies or laws. Last year, then Gov. Rick Snyder signed an executive directive that prohibited state departments from including a criminal history box on job applications.

Included in Quarles’ research was a 2015 study conducted by the late Devah Pager, a Harvard University professor. The study found that the likelihood of a callback for an interview for an entry-level position drops by 50 percent for applicants with a criminal record.

Taylor said about half of the county’s positions require a background check during the pre-employment screening process, which includes all sheriff’s office positions and those at Children’s Village.

“Once a job is offered, everyone will be asked to sign a consent form for a basic background to be conducted,” said Taylor. “If something comes up, we will look at the crime to see when it was committed and if it’s directly related to the job being sought.”

Per the new policy, if an applicant is disqualified for a job due to their criminal history, the county will notify the applicant and conduct an individualized assessment. This will allow the applicant to submit information regarding any inaccuracies of the criminal record and evidence of rehabilitation.

According to Taylor, most county employees with criminal records either shoplifted or drove under the influence.

The new hiring policy incorporates the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines regarding the use of arrest or conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.