Tampa is one step closer to passing a ‘ban the box’ ordinance, which could help job applicants with criminal records | Tampa Bay News | Tampa | #Education

Today at Tampa City Council, Assistant City Attorney Carl Brody presented an ordinance that would prohibit employers in the city from asking about a person’s criminal history or doing a background check until after a conditional job offer is provided.The practice, commonly referred to nationwide as “ban the box,” has become popularized in recent years, as states and municipalities become more sympathetic to people who have previously been charged with a crime.

“It basically provides an ex-offender an opportunity to to have a clear shot at getting the position,” Brody told council with intern Megan Birnholz, who helped write the ordinance, by his side.

The first reading of the ordinance passed unanimously, with the second reading scheduled for Aug. 4.

Most of the city council members chimed in to support the ordinance before it was passed, saying that people looking for jobs after serving their time deserve a second chance.

Councilman Luis Viera proposed the ordinance in April.

“This is a problem that affects all of our communities, no matter where you come from, and I stress this is for people who want to work their tail off so that they can provide food on the table for their families,” Viera said.

If passed, the ordinance would take effect for all contractors with the City of Tampa who submitted a bid, response or proposal to the City for a project.

Within the ordinance, the city notes that it already has removed the requirement for those applying for city jobs to say if they have a criminal record, and that the city does not check a person’s background until a conditional offer has been made. The city wants to extend this to its contractors.

In the ordinance, the city writes that the requirement of an applicant answering if they have a criminal history, “creates a chilling effect”  and that it “discourages individuals with a criminal history from applying for positions for which they may be qualified and where their prior convictions may not have any relevance to the position.”

If a city contractor already employs ex-offenders, then they are in compliance with the proposed ordinance. There would be a number of benefits for contractors who comply, including a higher rating preference from the city and discounts.

If a contractor were to choose not to comply, the City may withhold 10% of all future payments under the contractor’s project until the contractor achieves full compliance.

Council’s approval of the first reading of this ordinance follows a trend of “ban the box” ordinances around the country, with over 150 cities adopting similar ordinances.

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