‘Ban the Box’ is official in Daytona
BY PENNY DICKERSON
The City of Daytona Beach officially implemented its Fair Chance / Ban the Box Policy during a regular commission meeting this month. The policy went into effect on July 1 and eliminates applicant requirements to disclose criminal backgrounds during the preliminary phase of job applications.
In a succinct presentation by Human Resources Director Jim Sexton, the policy’s five salient points were outlined:
•Assist the successful integration of previously incarcerated people.
•Prohibit criminal history as an automatic barrier to employment.
•Prevent the use of an application form that eliminates qualified people.
•Mitigate or eliminate the exclusion of people with prior convictions.
•Ultimately, provide employment opportunities to qualified individuals who may have a criminal conviction history background.
Timing and exclusions
According to Sexton, the policy is not an elimination of the background process but a “timing issue” of when the department will ask for applicants to reveal their criminal background. No one will be hired for City of Daytona Beach employment without that disclosure.
Commissioners were provided copies of the revised city application, which reflected the change. Sexton reiterated that the policy has exceptions, including individuals applying for positions of trust and/or confidentiality such as the fire and police departments. A criminal record immediately disqualifies applicants for those jobs.
Once an application for other sectors of city employment has been completed, it is submitted to the appropriate department’s hiring managers who will have “zero idea about an applicant’s criminal history.”
Following the review and interview phase, including drug and medical screening, conditional employment is offered to those who qualify. At that time, applicants will be asked to disclose their criminal background records on an appropriate form.
“For those who have already applied for a job and are on the eligibility list, we will ‘redact’ that portion of the application,” Sexton explained. “Let’s just say we have 47 applicants for Maintenance Worker III. Instead of trying to track down every prospect and requesting they fill out a new application, we will place a sheet of paper over that portion of the application. Following department review and a conditional offer, we will already have their disclosure.”
With regards to a measurement of success, Sexton offered that prior to July 1, criminal convictions were not an automatic barrier to employment because the city traditionally extended employment to people based on their background checks.
“It’s not something that we have previously tracked or is it required by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission),” Sexton stated. “Even race and gender questions are voluntary, but I do have to report them on an EE- IV report that reviews our application process.”
Prior to and following Sexton’s presentation, the commission chambers resonated with acknowledgments of thanks.
Ernestine Maddox, an African-American woman and city personnel officer, was thanked by Sexton for “completing a lot of the research and authoring the policy.”
Mayor Derrick Henry, in return, thanked Sexton for addressing how the city will handle previously submitted applications.
“It’s never folks’ intent to not hire based on that element [criminal history] and some folks have felt that’s why they weren’t given an opportunity,” said Henry. “By bringing ‘Ban the Box’ into fruition, we certainly know that the element of criminal history will be eliminated.”
Henry acknowledged Mychal Tairu as the first person to bring the issue to the commissioning body and, he too, was given a round of thanks for his advocacy.
Tairu is Florida program coordinator of the Vincentian Reentry Organizing Project (VROP), a grassroots organization that partnered with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in support of “Ban the Box.”
During his public address at the July 1 meeting, Tairu offered, “I just want to thank you all for your leadership, dedication, love and compassion. I’ve been in several meetings for ‘Ban the Box’ across the state, but this one is really important to me.
“This is my community. I was educated in this community, raised here, pay taxes here, and this is where I’m raising my family. I’m not sure if you really know the impact and hope that this brings to individuals who think their fate is relegated to a box they have to check,’’ he added.