“Ban the Box”: Can I still ask applicants about criminal backgrounds in Oregon?
Question: Can Oregon employers still ask applicants if they have ever been convicted of a crime?
Answer: It depends on a lot of different factors, and may vary depending on the city and the circumstances. In the spirit of fair hiring policies, many cities and states across the nation are adopting “ban the box” laws, requiring employers to consider an applicant’s candidacy and qualifications before digging into their criminal background—essentially, removing any questions related to criminal history from job applications. In Oregon, a state statute forbids asking about a candidate’s criminal record on an application. And in Portland, the city ordinance on background checks is even stricter than Oregon’s. While Oregon employers can ask about criminal history during the interview stage (but not the application stage), Portland employers cannot ask about an applicant’s criminal background until *after* a conditional job offer has been made.
Tips: As of the first of this year, Oregon employers should have already removed questions about criminal history from their employment applications. On July 1, 2016, the city of Portland’s new ordinance on background checks took effect, which means that Portland employers need to make sure their hiring procedures now align with the new ordinance.
Of course, there are always exceptions. If you’re wondering whether you’re in compliance with the Oregon law and/or the new Portland ordinance, ask your Vigilant employment attorney for a review of your hiring practices and be sure to check out the city of Portland’s FAQs for a discussion of the new ordinance.