Ban the Box draws out hiring process

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COLUMBIA – Despite good intentions, some mid-Missourians are criticizing the Ban the Box ordinance for wasting employers’ time and money and giving potential job candidates false hope for future employment. 

The ordinance was implemented in December 2014 and forces employers to remove the check box on job applications that asks if applicants have a criminal record. Columbia was the first Missouri city to enact the rule, which gained momentum from an international campaign.

"We can't ask people for their criminal history until we've already extended a job offer," Guy Hulen, owner of Job Finders in Columbia, said.

The initial goal was to give ex-criminals a second chance. Many Columbia employers said banning the box hasn’t changed their hiring regulations, though. 

"For us, it hasn't really changed much," Margrace Buckler said. She is the director for Human Resources for the City of Columbia. She says the city removed the criminal background inquiry box from its applications two years before the legislative trend.

Some businesses are concerned Ban the Box postpones the hiring process.

“One of my employees had said that on at least a dozen occasions so far this year, we have missed our employers', our clients' deadline to get people in the door,” Hulen said.

Hulen's company matches talent with job openings. One of his clients agrees the ordinance might not be helping ex-criminals find jobs. 

Fourteen years have passed since Brent Decker was convited of white collar forgery and sent to prison. He says he's had no luck finding a job since then, not even under the Ban the Box ordinace.

"I don't think it's fair to be grouped, I mean should all felons be grouped together?" Decker said. "You know, from somebody that writes bad checks to somebody who commits murder?

Eventually Decker opened his own car detailing business, but he said not everyone is as fortunate.

"I worked with guys in Cuba, Missouri, who, they made it out, they got their home plan and within probably four or five months - not even that, they were back in prison because they just couldn't make it," Deckers said.

Governor Nixon issued an executive order in April requiring all Missouri cities to adopt a Ban the Box policy.