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The Suburbanite
  • County bans 'felony conviction' box for job applicants

  • Stark County commissioners on Wednesday amended their employee handbook and employment application forms to strip out the language that prohibits them from hiring anyone convicted of a felony.

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  • Stark County commissioners will no longer immediately ask job applicants whether they have a felony criminal record.
    Commissioners on Wednesday amended their employee handbook and employment application forms to strip the language that prohibits them from hiring anyone convicted of a felony.
    Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton said the changes do not lower the board’s hiring standards.
    “This gives them (applicants) the opportunity to explain their circumstances,” she said. “Sometimes someone makes a poor decision at a young age.”
    She also said the board still would conduct a background check on any job finalists before the candidate is hired.
    The board made the changes after meeting with representatives from the Stark County Criminal Justice Reform Committee, which said asking whether an applicant has a felony conviction on the job application unfairly rules out a qualified candidate whose conviction was years ago and unrelated to the job they are seeking.
    They also noted that one in six Ohioans have a criminal record and that 60 percent of Ohio prisoners are nonviolent offenders.
    The commissioners’ policy change applies only to the departments under the commissioners’ authority, which includes Stark County Job and Family Services, dog warden’s office, sanitary engineer’s office and building inspection.
    Creighton plans to call a meeting of all county elected officials to encourage them to adopt similar policies for their own employment practices.
    Canton’s Civil Service Commission lifted the city’s ban on hiring convicted felons in January. Nationally, the movement is known as “ban the box,” in reference to the check box on government job applications that asks about felony convictions.
    Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or kelli.young@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @kyoungREP