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City bans the box for employers

Philadelphia is the first to prohibit companies from asking about convictions until after the first interview.

Shortly before City Council voted on “Ban the Box” legislation prohibiting most public and private employers to ask about an applicant’s criminal history before their first interview is complete, ex-offender Michael Ta’Bon approached the microphone with his wife Gwen at his side and son SirRahn in his arms.

“A picture’s worth a 1,000 words. This is the picture of the family of a convict,” Ta’Bon said. “It takes a strong person to stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves.”

After Councilman James Kenney read a Bible verse in support to which Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell added “Amen,” Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller’s bill passed by a 13-4 vote. Council members Jack Kelley, Jane Krajewski, Brian O’Neill and Frank Rizzo Jr. voted in opposition. Cheers went up in the gallery and ex-offender supporters posed for celebratory pictures. A spokes­man for Mayor Michael Nutter said, “The mayor will sign the bill.”

Miller originally thought she had all 17 votes, but the four explained their objections to her beforehand. She didn’t really mind “as long as we had enough votes.” O’Neill explained he doesn’t think implementation is as easy as simply changing job applications.

“Businesses are having a difficult enough time as it is,” he said, referencing the paid sick-leave bill as well. “I don’t think we have to become the city that makes things more difficult for them.”

 
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