Fair Hiring

We Won! Now Help Us Take This Win Further!

In 2015, OJPC put two capstones on our six-year campaign to bring fair-hiring practices to all government employment in Ohio. We won both a state administrative policy (HR-29) and statewide legislation (HB 56). Each reform opens up good-paying, stable jobs to the 1-in-6 Ohioans with a criminal record — all while preserving common sense and public safety.

Scroll down to learn how these new laws work; to read Gene Mays’s story about why Fair Hiring matters to real people; and to become an OJPC Community Champion, helping us take Fair Hiring further.

Governor Kasich’s executive order: HR-29

Governor Kasich ordered the Ohio Department of Administrative Services to implement OJPC’s entire Fair Hiring policy in June 2015. HR-29 applies only to jobs with Ohio state government. This policy is powerful and effective because it does four things:

  1. Clearer job postings. Postings must spell out exactly which crimes are prohibited—based on some other state or federal law—for a particular position. HR-29 doesn’t have the power to change those other state or federal laws; the policy simply requires the job posting to list the prohibited offenses so applicants can avoid applying for jobs they know they are not eligible for. This saves applicants and employers time and costs.
  2. Ban the box. Any question about criminal history has been removed from the job application. This way, quality candidates are not automatically rejected by a simple checkbox. They are given a chance to define themselves as more than a past transgression. Note that this is just one part of this whole Fair Hiring Policy. “Ban the box” by itself is not enough.
  3. Background check later. A criminal-record check still gets done, just later in the process. HR-29 requires the background check right before the interview so that the applicant will have a chance to put it in context and talk about their rehabilitation.
  4. Reject only if relevant. Hiring managers must consider a few common-sense questions centered on whether the applicant’s past crimes are related to nature of the job they’re applying for. This means employers can exclude candidates with relevant offenses, but hire qualified candidates with old and irrelevant offenses. In fact, the S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires employers to consider the job-relevance of past crimes. In other words, HR-29 allows state agencies to get the best talent and comply with federal law.

HB 56: the Ohio Fair Hiring Act

In 2015, OJPC also successfully pushed through state legislation to take Fair Hiring further. House Bill 56 was passed nearly unanimously by the state House and Senate, and then signed into law by Governor Kasich, in December 2015. This bill was a result of advocacy by OJPC and our statewide grassroots partners in the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. HB 56 goes further than HR-29 because the legislation applies to all local government jobs in the state — that’s about 684,000 total jobs, with at least 50,000 openings a year. HB 56, however, only “bans the box” (#2 in the list above).

Gene Mays: why Fair Hiring matters to real people

OJPC began fighting for Fair Hiring in 2010 because our our partnership with our client Gene Mays.

A star student and basketball player in high school, Gene lost control of his life because of an addiction to drugs. He began selling drugs in the early 1980s to support his habit and eventually wound up in prison on felony drug charges. After a second felony drug conviction in 1994, Gene hit rock bottom in October 1997. He got the help he needed and has not used drugs or alcohol since.

Gene later enrolled in an electrician apprenticeship. After graduating from the program ranked number one in his class, Gene took and passed the Cincinnati’s civil service exam to become an electrician in the city sewers. But the city removed him from the pool of potential hires based solely on his criminal record—twelve years after his last offense. Gene was a full partner with OJPC and OOC as we successfully pushed for Cincinnati’s hiring rules to become more fair and sensible.

Since that success, OJPC, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and several other grassroots groups got the same reforms passed in 14 other cities and counties across the state. That set us up for our statewide victories in 2015, described above.

Become an OJPC Community Champion: take Fair Hiring further

We invite you to be part of OJPC’s team, advocating for Fair Hiring to become a complete reality for you and your community. Here’s what needs to happen next:

  • Call your mayor, city-council members, and city HR department. House Bill 56 applies to them right now. Ask them how they are complying with that new law. Tell them why Fair Hiring matters to you. Remind them that they can and should do better than just “ban the box” — they can follow all four parts of the state government’s example in HR-29. (See above for full explanation of why HR-29 is better.)
  • Help OJPC educate the private sector. All employers can and should have their own Fair Hiring policy. The EEOC already requires all employers to consider whether a criminal record is relevant before rejecting a candidate. But many employers haven’t updated their hiring policies to reflect this reality. If you are or know of an employer that needs legal and practical resources to do this right, check out our Redemption & Retention policy brief for employers. Also, our Second Chance Project Director Dorianne Mason is available for in-depth trainings with employers on this topic. And if you’re in greater Cincinnati, consider joining the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance — a collection of employers who are fully committed to creating good job opportunities for workers with criminal records.
  • Stay connected. Get regular updates about progress with the Ohio Fair Hiring Act by liking OJPC on Facebook and signing up for our occasional email newsletters at the bottom of this page.