Forsyth County asked to ‘Ban the Box’

Forsyth County asked to ‘Ban the Box’
March 29
12:00 2018

A local group has asked Forsyth County to join the Ban the Box fair chance hiring movement by removing its question on prior convictions from job applications.

Commissioners received letters with the request from members of All God’s Children Ministry, which is comprised of about 100 people from various churches, non-profits and civic organizations. The group wants the county to set an example for giving second chances to those who’ve served their time. This includes not asking about criminal convictions up front and instead simply relying on a background check after the person’s qualifications have been considered.

During a March 22 briefing, County Human Resources Manager Shontell Robinson said that numerous other local governments have already done this. This includes the cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham and Charlotte as well as the counties of Guilford, Mecklenburg, Wake and Orange. She said 30 states have adopted Ban the Box or more comprehensive fair chance policies.

Robinson said she personally participates in every decision to deny someone because of their criminal record, which she says would only happen if the crime was directly related to the job they were applying for like if someone convicted of theft in the last few years applied to be a cashier in the tax office. She explained a background check is done at the end of the application process, after the person has been interviewed and deemed to be a finalist.

Robinson said an applicant being denied because of their criminal record is very rare, and she’d counted only seven instances of it last fiscal year. She counted 15 instances of an applicant being disqualified because they didn’t disclose a conviction. This is out of more than 400 applicants the county hires per year.

Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt asked Robinson if she felt their hiring policy was fair, and she responded there are many county employees that have been hired with prior convictions.

“I know we give folks a second chance,” said Robinson, who added that she could see both sides of the argument on banning the box.

Commissioners Everette Witherspoon and Fleming El-Amin both strongly spoke in favor of removing the conviction question from the form, saying the county’s background check is enough to weed out any problems with applicants. El-Amin gave the personal example of his late brother who had problems with addiction and had difficulties finding work. He said employment could’ve made a big difference in his life.

“I know other people who just want an opportunity to work, to be considered fairly, no extra favoritism, just an opportunity,” said El-Amin.

Witherspoon said changing the application would help applicants if a future human resources director wasn’t as fair as Robinson.

Gayle Anderson, who recently retired as Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce president, and Lisa Sykes, who is the project leader of the All God’s Children Ministry Team at Knollwood Baptist Church, both attended last week’s hearing in support of the measure.

“We think it’s important that the county to do the right thing, which it’s obviously for the most part doing already except Ban the Box, but we’d like for the county to also set an example for private employers,” said Sykes.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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