York City Council takes next step to 'ban the box'

Maria Yohn
York Dispatch

The York City Council agreed to move forward with an ordinance that will "ban the box" on city employment applications by placing it on their Tuesday, May 1, agenda for consideration.

City Councilmen Michael Helfrich, right, and Henry Nixon, left, share a laugh during election night at the Democratic Party Headquarters on South Duke Street in York, Pa. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Dawn J. Sagert - dsagert@yorkdispatch.com

The council unanimously agreed to consider amending Article 165 of the York City Codified Ordinance to establish a fair chance hiring policy, which would eliminate the check box that applicants mark to indicate if they have a prior felony or misdemeanor on their criminal record. 

The decision was made during the council's Tuesday, April 26, committee meeting.

Although the city currently has a policy disallowing use of the box on its employment applications, the ordinance would cement the policy and make it far more difficult to overturn, as it would require the establishment of another ordinance.

However, the city may still consider a past conviction as part of an applicant's background check in making hiring decisions, according to the proposed ordinance.

More:York City Council aims to 'Ban the Box' permanently

More:EDITORIAL: Ban the box — and hear them out

Background: The council's goal is to eliminate potential barriers to employment for residents with criminal histories, according to council President Henry Nixon. The council first announced the initiative at a March 12 news conference. 

During a Facebook live address held the same day, Mayor Michael Helfrich lent support to the council's initiative.

 "To me, it's fair to at least get past that first 10 seconds to actually be evaluated for who you are. what your skills are," he said. "When you have a box to check if you have any kind of criminal history, that just goes into the trash in a lot of cases."

Although no legislation has been passed requiring private city business owners to adopt a similar policy, Nixon is hoping to lead by example and encourage every city business to follow the suit by "banning the box" on their employment applications.