Madison considers "ban the box" hiring approach - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison considers "ban the box" hiring approach

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MADISON (WKOW) -- City of Madison officials are considering joining the state of Minnesota, some cities, retailer Target and other employers in doing away with the requirement applicants reveal criminal histories on applications.

This employment trend is dubbed "Ban the box," a reference to an application box to be checked, to indicate a felony or misdemeanor conviction.

Some officials say removing the requirement of listing criminal history on an application helps minority candidates. Certain minority groups statistically have criminal conviction percentages disproportionate with their percentage of the population. Officials say listing a criminal history can significantly reduce the odds of being hired. State law does bar discrimination in hiring based on arrest or conviction record.

Madison Human Resources Director Brad Wirtz tells 27 News criminal history application boxes still must be checked, but only human resources offiicials receive the information, and decision-makers assess job applicants without that knowledge. Wirtz says if human resources officials feel a criminal history is significant, or substantially related to a job, they will consult with the city attorney, and the hiring staff member can be informed.

Wirtz says even though listing criminal histories on applications can influence hiring decisions, there's no evidence Madison's approach has discouraged minority job-seekers from applying.

:"So when I say the current system is working, even though we're looking at the new system and we're not opposed to completely taking the question off the application altogether, we do reflect the population of the city in our applicant pool," Wirtz tells 27 News.

Wirtz says if Madison decides to ban the box, a suitable method to sufficiently vet applicants must be in place. Some officials have suggested having decision-makers inquire about criminal convictions during the interview process, giving applicants a chance to explain the circumstances.

"We don't want to create liability for the city by having someone who has a criminal past that we should have known better, with reasonable diligence," Wirtz tells 27 News.

"So that's really where we're at in the discussion, why we haven't removed it at this point," Wirtz says.

Madison employs approximately 2,680 full time workers, and three hundred seasonal staff. Approximately nine-hundred employees work for either the police or fire departments. Wirtz says applicants for those departments would still have to list criminal histories, even if the city changes its hiring approach.

Wirtz says Dane County has adopted a ban the box approach in its hiring. County Human Resources Manager Travis Myren could not be reached for comment on features of the hiring process, in the absence of criminal history listing on applications.  

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