On November 25, 2015, the Portland City Council and Mayor Charlie Hales enacted a new “Ban the Box” law that creates a more restrictive version of the law than was enacted by the Oregon State Legislature and signed into law by Oregon Governor Kate Brown this past summer. Although the Oregon State Law goes into effect on January 1, 2016, the stricter City of Portland Law, will not become effective until July 1, 2016.

“Ban the Box” laws are laws which prohibit the use of questions on employment applications that inquire about a job applicant’s prior criminal history. Some states and cities impose even more regulations, such as the City of Portland now, which will make it illegal to even ask job applicants whether they have a criminal history, until after a conditional employment offer has been extended to the individual applying for the job.

The Portland law will impact virtually all employers. The only exceptions are small businesses (defined as those having five or fewer employees), law enforcement positions, and organizations that deal with vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, the disabled, and children.

Companies and organizations that have operations in the City of Portland should review their employee background screening procedures and employment applications. Any question inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal history should be removed from the employment application. Further, the actual background screening report cannot be performed until after a conditional employment offer has been made. Again, the City of Portland Law goes into effect on July 1, 2016. However, the whole state of Oregon will “Ban the Box” as of January 1, 2016, so employment applications will need to be revised to remove this question in just over a month.

Performing background checks will still be permissible both in Oregon and in the City of Portland. Portland, however, as of next July will only permit an employment background check to be performed once a conditional employment offer has been extended to the job applicant.

Posted by: Rudy Troisi. President, Reliable Background Screening.