Hiring felons bill gains attention

nfib-logoBy Jan Meekcoms
Oregon NFIB

Bill would ‘put the employer in a hiring straitjacket.’

Oregon is considering a “ban the box” law that would eliminate questions about felony convictions on employment applications.

But small business owners say House Bill 3025 would limit the ability of a small business owner to hire the right person by making it illegal to ask early in the hiring process if the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony.

Zachary Steele, owner of Steele Insurance Agency in Salem, Oregon, says he would be concerned about safety in the workplace if the law were enacted.

“[Lawmakers should] make more changes that allow business owners to run their businesses as they see fit when it comes to the hiring process,” he said.

Jan Meekcoms, NFIB state director for Oregon, said the proposal would put small business owners at great risk and limit the hiring process.

“This bill puts the employer in a hiring straitjacket while maintaining the employer’s liability for a safe working environment,” she said. “There is no negligent protection for the employer should HB 3025 pass.”

Proponents of the bill suggest it will help reformed convicts find a job by removing an obstacle that often disqualifies a candidate from employment early in the hiring process. However, the bill would create additional obstacles and costs for small business owners.

“Employers are responsible for creating a safe working environment,” Meekcoms said. “If an employee, customer, vendor or member of the public is harmed by an employee who is a known felon as a matter of public record, the employer could find himself/herself in an expensive and egregious liability situation.”

Sixteen states have adopted ban the box laws as of April 3, according to the National Employment Law Project.

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