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Ordinance will help people with prior arrests obtain Chicago jobs

Posted on October 5, 2014

A newly proposed ordinance would remove employment barriers for people with prior arrest or criminal records by prohibiting questions about criminal background at the first stage of the job hiring process, a move that would help those with prior arrests obtain Chicago jobs.

Every year, 20,000 people return from prison to communities in Chicago, totaling more than half of the people leaving Illinois prisons. However, many of those qualified for entry-level positions are discriminated out of job opportunities because of prior arrest or criminal records. By prohibiting questions about criminal background at the first stage of the job hiring process, applicants are guaranteed to be initially evaluated on their skills and experience, rather than being rejected because of their past.

Ban the Box policies do not prohibit employers from ultimately rejecting applicants based on their prior criminal history, rather, these policies ensure returning citizens have a fair shot at the hiring process, and a fair shot at building a productive life for themselves and their communities.

“There are too many obstacles facing people who are serious about starting over after they leave prison,” said Alderman Mitts. “This ordinance will help put an end to institutional barriers that can keep people from earning a paycheck and being positive community members.”

“This is a common sense move that will ensure consistent rules for businesses of all sizes, and ensure people who have left prison and are trying to turn their life around can be evaluated on their abilities,” said Alderman Burnett. “When someone makes a conscious decision to turn over a new leaf, we as a community should support that choice.”

The ordinance would close a gap in the State of Illinois’ new Ban the Box law by extending this hiring requirement to the roughly 45,000 businesses in the City of Chicago with fewer than 15 employees.

The proposed ordinance will extend existing City administrative Ban the Box hiring protections to sister agencies. It would also create new penalties for businesses that have violated State and local requirements, and have failed to take remedial actions.

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