Maricopa County to eliminate criminal conviction question from job applications

Required background checks will still catch those with criminal past prior to hire, officials say


Maricopa County will become a “second chance employer” by removing from most job applications the question related to prior criminal convictions.

The Board of Supervisors approved the policy unanimously, as a way to lower recidivism rates and provide increased opportunity to people who have served their time, according to a press release issued Dec. 13 by the county.

Starting Jan. 1, questions about an applicant’s criminal past will no longer be allowed on the initial job application, unless required by specific departments, according to the release.

Some county departments — primarily those dealing with law enforcement — have more stringent rules and/or must comply with federal or state statutes related to the criminal history of employees. These departments will continue to include criminal background questions on employment applications.

Denny Barney represents District 1 on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. (Courtesy of Maricopa County)

“I applaud Gov. (Doug) Ducey for his leadership in eliminating this question from state employment applications. Implementing the same practice at the county makes sense because we want to help those with a criminal past integrate back into society so there is less chance they will reoffend,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Denny Barney, District 1, in the release. “People who get jobs are less likely to go back to jail. That is good for individuals and taxpayers. The county will still run criminal background checks prior to a person’s hire, so this is not a case of turning a blind eye. It’s a way to make sure everyone who wants to work for Maricopa County gets a fair shot.”

Maricopa County currently requires job applicants to answer a question about past criminal convictions during the initial application process. Then, before the person is hired, they are subject to an official reference and criminal background check.

The new policy eliminates asking about criminal convictions upfront, but keeps the background investigation requirement after the person has shown him or herself qualified for the job.

“What we’re doing is freeing up managers to consider the most qualified candidate for the job from the very start,” said Jan Plank, Maricopa County human resources director, in the release. “If the person we want to hire has a criminal history, it will turn up in the background check. Then the hiring manager can weigh all factors and make the appropriate decision in conjunction with human resources.”

“We want to communicate to everyone that we welcome their applying to Maricopa County. We do not believe individuals are defined solely by their past. We believe in what they can do, moving forward,” said Supervisor Barney. “When former inmates find good jobs, it makes our economy stronger and our community safer.”

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