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Effort to help ex-offenders may add to job discrimination

People with criminal records in California and around the country face an uphill climb when trying to get a job. To improve their odds of getting hired, advocates for ex-offenders have tried a strategy known as ban the box, which prevents employers from asking about felony convictions on job applications. Researchers, however, have uncovered an unfortunate result of the ban. Young and low-skilled black or Hispanic men with no criminal histories experienced a reduction in employment opportunities in states and municipalities where the employers could not inquire about past records.

Researchers studied data collected between 2004 and 2014. They compared the probability of employment for these minorities in areas that disallowed the question to places where applications could include the question. They looked specifically at black and Hispanic men without college degrees between the ages of 25 and 34. Black man faced a 5.1 percent drop in job opportunities in jurisdictions governed by ban-the-box legislation. Hispanic men experienced a 2.9 percent decrease in employment probability.

The authors of the study concluded that employers apparently increased racial discrimination in hiring when denied applicants’ criminal histories. The statistics indicated that black and Hispanic men received a lower number of interviews because employers perceived them as belonging to demographic groups with high incarceration rates.

Studies of this nature show the tendency of some people who make hiring decisions to discriminate on the basis of race. People who suspect that a job offer was withheld because of their race or who experience workplace discrimination after getting a job may want to meet with an employment law attorney in order to learn what recourse they may have.