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City of Roanoke to Eliminate Criminal History Question on City Government Job Application
Government officials in Roanoke, Virginia are joining 10 other localities in the state in removing a question from the standard job application that asks about criminal history, according to The Roanoke News.

This movement is being called “Ban the Box” and it argues that this question leads to discrimination against former offenders who are attempting to put their lives back on track. Officials believe that the question is also a deterrent to former offenders when it comes to applying for government jobs.

Those who defend the question claim that is a strong way to learn info at the very start of the hiring process. They also say that it is a good tool for employers to avoid risks of hiring workers who might hurt their business, cause litigation against them or endanger other employees.

The change was made in Roanoke last week as they joined Norfolk, Richmond, Martinsville and Charlottesville in cities that have removed the question from job applications. All of these cities have done so without formal votes.

The change will occur in January by the city staff, but they will be doing it without the blessing of the city council.

The question will only be removed from job applications filed with the city government and not with private companies in the town of Roanoke. Background checks and smart decisions on who to hire will still be made, according to Sherman Stovall, the Assistant City Manager of Roanoke.

“I want to applaud the city for leading the charge,” said Councilwoman Anita Price. “I hope this will encourage other organizations and businesses to look at the lead the city has taken and follow suit.”

The city was being pressed to make the change by Price, Councilman Court Rosen and Councilman Sherman Lea.

Via email, Lea said, “I am proud of my colleagues on Council and the City Administration.”

A statement was added last year that said a criminal history for applicants would not disqualify them automatically from most jobs with the city.

Stovall said that of the applicants in the previous year who had a criminal history, 44 percent of them were offered jobs with the city.

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