The City of Racine passed an ordinance that officially bans it from asking if a person has been convicted of a felony on its job application for most positions.

In a 14-0 vote, the measure was passed Tuesday night at a Common Council meeting.

City officials removed the question weeks ago from the job application, but it passed the ordinance to serve as a public example for other employers. Still, Common Council members called on staff to implement a formal written policy earlier this month.

“We are already very engaged in hiring people from prison re-entry programs,” said Tim Thompkins, the hiring director from the City of Racine.

The ban the box movement is part of a larger nationwide initiative to allow convicted felons who have served out their prison sentences to work in government positions. Governor Scott Walker included a ban the box provision in a civil service bill passed in 2016.

The “Ban the box” ordinance bars the city from asking the question on a job application. The city still conducts a background check on all potential new hires and uses the Wisconsin Fair Employment Law to protect the community from hiring some types of felons for some types of positions. The employment law standard is used to decide if a felon’s record would  substantially related to the circumstances of the particular job or licensed activity.

The city often places people who have had earlier drug convictions in positions in seasonal jobs, the sanitation department, and some park maintenance positions. The jobs can pay up to $14 to $15 an hour.

Scott Letteney, the city attorney, explained that the ordinance essentially helps formalize the practice. But they also hope that other employers follow the city’s example.



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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.