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Politics & Government

Allegheny County 'Bans the Box'

Allegheny County has followed in the City of Pittsburgh’s footsteps and will no longer include a question about prior criminal convictions on its job applications starting in January.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the policy increases the number of available applicants to fill county positions and gives those with prior convictions a fair shot at an interview.

“We want everybody to share in the economic growth that’s happening in our region right now and this would just be kind of one more area in which we can broaden that out to give all folks that opportunity,” he said.

The policy will apply to all applying for full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary positions within the county, but background checks and criminal history investigations can still be conducted past the application phase, according to Fitzgerald.

“We’re not going to have that box,” he said. “We’re not going to have that box that you check off. Now, that’s not to say at a later point in the process of hiring somebody or interviewing somebody, that that will not be asked or discovered etcetera. It’s just in the initial phases.”

Fitzgerald also said departments and positions that receive federal funding, such as county police officers, jail guards and the Department of Human Services, are exempt from the policy change.

At the start of next year, all county job postings will note if a criminal history or background check is required for the available position. Checks will be conducted by the Department of Human Services and kept confidential.

The same policy was adopted by the City of Pittsburgh nearly two years ago, and according to Fitzgerald, it seems to be yielding positive results.

“As we get out there into the community and talk to different groups, this is something that had been requested and we decided that we would take a look at it and we’ve been reviewing it, we’ve been talking to some members of city council who seem to think it’s been successful in city hiring practices.”

The “Ban the Box” policy has been adopted by more than 80 governments across the country including 13 states, Washington D.C. and 69 cities and counties.