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County Legislators Approve 'Ban The Box' Legislation Protecting Workers With Criminal Past

John Testa of Peekskill, minority leader of the county Board of Legislators, voices his opposition to a "ban the box" law that now bans Westchester employees of asking job prospects their criminal past on applications.
John Testa of Peekskill, minority leader of the county Board of Legislators, voices his opposition to a "ban the box" law that now bans Westchester employees of asking job prospects their criminal past on applications. Photo Credit: Provided

The Westchester County Board of Legislators passed a bill on Monday, Dec. 3 to make it illegal for employers to make job seekers disclose committing serious crimes on their application.

Poll
Do you favor the county's "ban the box" legislation?
Current Results

Do you favor the county's "ban the box" legislation?

  • Yes
    13%
  • No
    86%
  • No opinion
    1%

The proposed legislation was approved by a vote of 11 to 5.

County Executive George Latimer recently said he favored the new law since employers can still ask applicants about any past convictions during their job interview.

Latimer said he opposed applicants being instantly and arbitrarily knocked out of the running by being honest on a written application.

Monday's vote was 11-5, with all Democrats except for Michael Kaplowicz, D-Yorktown, and four Republicans voting against it. Democrat Virginia Perez was absent during the vote.

John Testa, minority leader of the county Board of Legislators was among those voting against the proposed law.

Testa, a Republican from Peekskill, called it "an outrageous overreach into private business and a continuation of their assault on the small business community."

Testa said he  disagreed with Latimer when he ordered that the county not ask about job applicants’ criminal history.

"But to legislate that private businesses can no longer establish their own standards for what type of character and integrity they require in an employee -- using past criminal activity as a guide -- is a disturbing level of government interference in private business," Testa said on Tuesday.

The legislation which has been called “ban the box” -- referring to a box that must be checked on a job application related to criminal convictions.

Sponsors ultimately picked “Local Law to Prohibit Discrimination based on one’s criminal conviction."

Testa pointed out that a number of federal employment protections already exist for job applicants such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group.

"These are protected classes because they are characteristics not indicators of character," Testa said. "An individual who has committed a criminal act is not a member of a protected class. . . ."

"I am all for giving individuals a second chance, it has been a mantra of mine my entire adult life as an educator and elected official and many business owners do the same as a matter of choice. To legislate and force business to ignore criminal records of a prospective employee is overreaching at its worst," Testa added.

"My Democrat colleagues have embraced this anti-business posture in a series of legislative actions that hurt small businesses and put them at a competitive disadvantage in our region."

According to Testa, other legislative overreach into private business practices include legislation that prohibits small business owners from asking about a prospective employees prior salary, dictating application processes to private residential cooperative building associations, proposed red light cameras (and) passing legislation that raises licensing fees for independent home improvement contractors."

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