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Aldermen OK bill to ban employers from asking applicants about criminal history

CITY HALL – Backers of legislation just passed by the Board of Aldermen say it should help those who have spent time in prison to get jobs in the city.

The bill, sponsored by 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, would prohibit all employers in St. Louis from basing decisions on hiring or promotion until it’s determined that the person is otherwise qualified. Employers could ask only in the later stage of the process.

Proponents say that revealing a criminal history on a job application is a significant block to getting employment and that holding off on revealing that history might give qualified applicants a chance to explain their situations.

In an email, Muhammad said he was sponsoring the legislation to give people a second chance and expanded job opportunities.

“Removing questions about conviction history from job applications is a simple policy change that eases hiring barriers and creates a fair chance to compete for jobs,” he wrote. “Persistent joblessness translates into economic losses. This is about revitalization through job growth.”

Mayor Lyda Krewson still must sign the bill before it becomes law. “It’s under review,” Jacob Long, the mayor’s director of communications, wrote in an email on Monday.

The License Collector’s office would be responsible for enforcement of the prohibitions including imposition of penalties for violations. The city Civil Rights Enforcement Agency would have the responsibility to receive and investigate complaints of alleged violations.

Employers would not be able to publish ads, either on paper or electronically, saying they don’t hire applicants with criminal histories. They would not be able to put a similar notice on job applications.

The prohibitions would not apply where federal or state laws or regulations or city ordinances prohibit employees from hiring people with criminal histories.

Aldermen also are considering a bill that would prohibit city agencies from asking applicants their salary history. Those who favor the bill say it could prevent them from being offered less than they would be otherwise.

In another matter, Sixth Ward Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia introduced a bill to prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms by persons who are subject to a restraining order or who have been convicted of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

The aldermanic Public Safety Committee will consider the bill at a meeting at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Kennedy Room of City Hall.

This is the fourth bill introduced this session designed to control the use of firearms in the city.

The board passed a bill introduced by 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd banning the unlawful possession of a handgun by a minor. The mayor signed that bill into law. 

The board passed and the mayor signed a bill sponsored by 20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer prohibiting firearms in city parks. That bill declared parks to be child-care facilities. State law prohibits firearms in city parks.

The board is still considering a bill sponsored by Ingrassia that allows those who reserve park space for an event to exclude firearms from the area they plan to use.

In another item, the board passed a resolution backing an effort to put a ballot initiative to have the question of Medicaid expansion put before Missouri’s voters at the Nov. 3 election. If passed, the measure would require Missouri to provide Medicaid to all residents under 65 whose incomes are equal to or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. A total of 200,000 would benefit from approval.

Missouri is one of 14 states that have rejected federal funds to cover the cost of Medicaid expansion. 

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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