Waterloo OKs hiring plan limiting criminal record inquiries

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Waterloo on Monday became the first city in Iowa to approve a measure banning the city and many businesses from asking about applicants’ criminal records in the early stages of the hiring process.

The City Council approved the so-called “ban-the-box” ordinance, which doesn’t let employers ask about an applicant’s criminal history until after making a conditional job offer, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

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. Similar measures have been passed in dozens of cities around the country, but Waterloo is the first city in Iowa to approve such an ordinance.

The measure applies to business with at least 15 employees and the city government. The ordinance doesn’t cover other government organizations, including public and private schools or state, county or federal offices.

The council approved the measure on a 4-2 vote, with opponents predicting it would be challenged in court as violating a state law that prevents cities from adopting rules that “exceed or conflict with federal or state law related to hiring practices.”

It will be several weeks before the measure takes effect.