Gov. McAuliffe signs executive order to remove criminal history questions from employment applications

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia joins a growing list of states and cities across the country to “ban the box.”

It’s part of a national movement to have the box on employment applications that asks if you have a criminal history removed. Friday governor Terry McAuliffe made history by signing an executive order to ban the box.

The action removes the box from state employee applications. A measure to do that passed in the Senate but ultimately failed in the House of Delegates earlier this year. The governor says he hopes this is just a first step, and that companies in the private sector follow the state’s lead.

“I was convicted on two counts of grand larceny and one count of obtaining money under false pretenses,” said former felon James Moss.

Moss says he made a mistake and after serving time he couldn’t get any jobs despite having 18 years experience in construction. He blames the box asking whether he had ever been convicted of a felony.

“Put in application after application, check that box, never heard call backs,” said Moss.

Moss said it was frustrating, and hard to handle.

“It was depressing, it really, really was.”

He’s now been working in donations for GoodWill for two years, there as the governor signed an executive order to remove questions about criminal history from state applications.

“I believe it’s huge, and it’s a huge step in the right direction,” said Moss.

“It’s all about forgiveness and giving people second chances. I’ve always said people make mistakes in life, you show me someone who’s never made a mistake,” said Governor McAuliffe.

Under the order state employers cannot take a crime into account for qualified applicants unless the crime specifically relates to the job the person is applying for. Criminal background checks can still be done but the governor says this will at least give people the chance to interview and make a first impression.

“Once you’ve served your time you want people back in the community, as governor I want people back.”

“Personally I have a relative that is now incarcerated,” said Catherine Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald says she believes this will help her family member.

“They check that, they never get called back, now they have a chance to get called back.”

Virginia becomes the 15th state to ban the box.


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