Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is expected to sign a controversial “ban the box” bill that will bar employers from asking job seekers about their criminal background on job applications.

“When it comes to the crime fight, we have to use every tool available, which includes creating opportunities for those who have paid their debt to society and want to turn their lives around,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement after the bill passed the city council on April 28 by a vote of 10-4.

A specific date on which the mayor will sign the bill has not been set.

Under the bill, employers may conduct a criminal background check only after interviewing an applicant and making a conditional offer of employment.

The bill does not prohibit businesses, such as child care facilities, to ask about sex-offender convictions, according to news outlets.

Rawlings-Blake said the council’s passage of the bill was “a critical component to not only helping to reduce unemployment, but also improving public safety by addressing recidivism.”

The mayor’s press secretary, Caron Brace, said Rawlings-Blake is very supportive of the bill but has weighted the various arguments made by its opponents.

“She understands there are reservations by some, but this is huge for people who are trying to reenter society and get jobs,” Brace told the AFRO on April 29.

Although the Greater Baltimore Committee—a network of business and civic leaders—supports hiring ex-offenders, it objected to three amendments included in the bill.

According to CEO Donald C. Fry, the bill should have allowed inquiries about criminal records to be made after just the interview, rather than requiring a conditional offer be made; it should have exempted businesses mandated to do background checks by federal, state and local laws; and prevented businesses from incurring criminal penalties.

The bill is “going to make it more burdensome on businesses in Baltimore,” he told the AFRO on April 30. “Baltimore will be an island of itself, because no other jurisdiction has this law.”

Nonetheless, Fry said businesses will comply with the law as written in the most efficient way possible.

LaTrina Antoine

Special to the AFRO