June 4, 2019 – The Republican caucus of the Suffolk County Legislature called today for the tabling of a proposal that would prohibit private businesses in Suffolk County from questioning job applicants about their criminal history. The measure, called ‘ban the box,’ if passed, would ban the use of the question, usually presented with a checkbox on a job application, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”
Republicans expressed concern that such a prohibition could lead to law suits, the potential for unsafe working conditions, potential risks to customers, clients and patients, and other unintended consequences.
Tom Cilmi, GOP Caucus Leader, said, “We all believe in second chances. Certainly, many individuals who have been convicted of a crime change their lives and resolve to become productive, law-abiding members of our society. But we recognize that recidivism will occur in some cases as well. Furthermore, the notion that employers should go through an extensive interview process, offer a job, and then go through the process and cost of a background check after the fact, is ignorant of the many challenges facing employers, small and large, in our County.”
Cilmi expressed concern that the law would lead to costly litigation in cases where a background check, subsequent to a job offer, uncovered crimes in the applicant’s past that, due to prudence, cause the employer to retract the offer.
Cilmi said, “This is going to be onerous on our businesses who struggle every day to comply with an increasingly burdensome regulatory environment. What if someone has a prior conviction for a financial crime? What about the hospital or medical office where employees have access to drugs and confidential patient records? What about those who were convicted of violent felonies? There are any number of considerations which raise concerns. Additionally, the prospect of retracting an offer of employment after a background check is unfair to both employer and employee, and exposes the employer to unnecessary litigation.”
“Perhaps there is a way to address these concerns,” said Cilmi. “We recognize that folks that have committed some crimes are not necessarily bad people, but simply people who made a mistake. Hopefully we can find a compromise that balances the safety and security of our residents and our businesses, which is paramount to Republicans, with our desire to give those with minor offenses in their past a second chance.”