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OHR Begins Enforcing “Ban the Box” Law for Returning Citizens

Thursday, December 18, 2014
sources and Guidance released for DC Fair Criminal Record Screening Amendment Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, December 18, 2014

CONTACT: Elliot Imse, Director of Policy and Communications – 202.481.3773; [email protected]

        

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The District of Columbia has joined over 60 jurisdictions nationwide in implementing a law that prohibits District employers from making inquiries into an applicant’s arrests, criminal convictions, or accusations during the initial phases of the hiring process. Effective immediately, employers must remove criminal background questions from all job application forms, and can only ask about criminal convictions after a conditional offer of employment is made.  Complaints about violations of the law can be filed with the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR).

“The new criminal background screening law eliminates a critical barrier for many who seek employment in the District, and gives returning citizens a fair chance at rebuilding their life,” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “The spirit of this law encourages employers to focus on the individual and their qualifications, not solely past mistakes, and the Office of Human Rights is committed to doing our part in educating employers and when necessary, holding employers accountable.”

To assist employers and returning citizens in understanding the law and its implications, OHR is releasing a series of videos, factsheets and notice templates available on its website. OHR will also hold an information session about the new law at Anacostia Library on Tuesday, January 6 at 3pm. To help prepare for the law to go into effect, OHR has participated in stakeholder meetings and attended events with advocates and allies of the returning citizen community, and has held conversations with members of the business community, to help inform the new resources and prepare the outreach and investigation teams.

“Our outreach team is ready to work with returning citizens and employers to understand the new law, and our investigation’s team is ready to receive complaints from job applicants who believe they were unfairly asked about their criminal background,” said Palacio. “We now have one of the most robust criminal record screening laws in the nation and we have done extensive research of jurisdictions that preceded us, so we are confident in the process OHR has in place to mediate and investigate complaints.”

The new law – passed unanimously in July by the City Council and made effective yesterday after a mandatory Congressional Review period – prohibits entities with 11 or more employees from making any inquiry into an applicant’s conviction until after making a conditional offer of employment. After the conditional job offer, an employer can ask about criminal convictions, but the job offer can only be withdrawn for a legitimate business reason. Whether the business reason is legitimate is determined by six factors including, how the conviction would affect job performance, and the length of time since the offense. The complaint process, which can be initiated through OHR, will follow similar procedures to complaints filed under the DC Human Rights Act. Violations may result in fines, of which half are awarded to complainants.

To register (optional) for the returning citizen information session on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 from 3pm – 4pm at the Anacostia Library at 1800 Good Hope Road SE, visit fcrsaworkshop.eventbrite.com.

For more information and resources about the DC Fair Criminal Record Screening Amendment Act of 2014, please visit ohr.dc.gov/page/returningcitizen.

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About the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) was established to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for persons who live in or visit the District of Columbia. The agency enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the DC Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against. OHR also proactively enforces human rights in the District through Director’s Inquiries, which allow it to identify and investigate practices and policies that may be discriminatory.