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"Ban The Box" Bill Heads for Governor's Desk

Posted at 6:27 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 20:18:41-04

A push to ban questions about criminal history on state job applications has made its way to the governor's desk for a signature.

Supporters of the idea said it levels the playing field for those who are trying to turn around their lives after spending time behind bars.  

The legislation was part of the so-called "Ban the Box" movement, referring to the box that ex-cons have to check on job applications saying they've been convicted of crimes in the past.

 
Both the state senate and the house now have passed the bill sponsored by Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville).
 
The law would ban state agencies from asking questions about a job applicant's criminal history on the initial job application.  Those in favor of the change argue when applicants admit they have a criminal history, many hiring managers won't look into that applicant any further, even if the offense was several years ago and they've since turned their life around.
 
Hiring managers in state offices would be allowed to ask about their criminal past in later interviews, and the restrictions would not apply to the TBI, Department of Education or the State Board of Education.
 
Supporters of the bill said it will allow former convicts a better chance at getting their foot in the door if they've got the work experience needed for a specific state job.
 
"We're in favor of it, and I plan on signing the bill," said Gov. Bill Haslam.  "I think it's a great thing to eliminate that as just the first screening, to give people a chance to get past that, to see if -- on their own -- they're worthy of getting hired."
 
Supporters of the bill, including the ACLU, said they hope the passage of this bill will eventually lead to other bills requiring private businesses to adopt similar job application rules.