Iowa Supreme Court rules on Waterloo’s ban the box ordinance

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Iowa Supreme Court Building (WHO 13)

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court has struck down part of the city of Waterloo’s new “ban the box” ordinance that prohibits employers from making hiring decisions based on pending criminal charges without a legitimate business reason.

What remained after Friday’s ruling is language that doesn’t let employers ask about an applicant’s criminal history until after making a conditional job offer. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that the ordinance only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees.

The measure is intended to ensure people with criminal convictions get a fair chance of getting jobs by encouraging employers not to discard applications only because potential workers check a box stating they have been convicted of a crime. After it was passed in November 2019, a business group challenged it in court.

Mayor Quentin Hart said he was encouraged, noting that the many businesses already have “taken steps to create more inclusive hiring practices”

The ACLU of Iowa filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

“‘Ban-the-box’ policies are vital to remedying racial disparities in employment,” said Shefali Aurora, ACLU of Iowa staff attorney. “Otherwise, the existing racial disparities in our criminal justice system are only amplified.”

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