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Syracuse considers eliminating background checks on initial job applications

It’s usually just one question that employers routinely ask, but for some Syracuse Common Councilors, it’s one question too many.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - It’s usually just one question that employers routinely ask, but for some Syracuse Common Councilors, it’s one question too many.

A local law is being proposed that would bar any employer in the city from asking applicants whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. And some members of Syracuse’s business community aren’t happy about it.

Business leaders say it’s already hard to attract new businesses to Syracuse – not to mention keeping the ones that are already here.

They believe the new bill won’t signal a welcoming place to do business.

"I understand the motivation behind this. I think that this bill as it's written is probably ill conceived,” said CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson.

Jean Kessner noted that prospective employees are often rejected on that criterion alone.

"If you have got 40 applications on your desk and there's an X in this box, that application goes in the trash,” said Common Councilor Jean Kessner.

Kessner cites a recent federal directive to "ban the box,” as they call it and says this law would only postpone the question.

"Then you call the person up and ask them to come in and you talk to them and then you ask them and then they get a chance to explain. Then you get a chance to talk face-to-face and make a determination,” she said.

"The concern I hear from members is this interferes with their hiring process. It's a local mandate for something for which there are already federal laws to prevent employee discrimination. It's just one more piece of bureaucracy they have to comply with and compliance takes money,” Simpson said.

Kessner admits that the proposal is still being developed. She says it's in the early stages and will need to go through a committee so that people have an opportunity to speak about it.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner – who is a labor lawyer – is reviewing the proposed legislation. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said that Miner feels there was not enough vetting of the legislation before it was put on the council’s agenda.

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