PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Theresa Sweeney loves to collect old kitchen things. She’s raised three children and earned a master’s degree in 2010. She also has four felony convictions dating back to the early 2000s.
“People, a lot of times, say, ‘Oh, you don’t look like a criminal,’ which is always a strange thing to me because I was a criminal,” said the 56-year-old Portland woman.
In 2001, she used fake credit cards to make purchases, and did the same thing in 2003 with fake travelers checks. She spent seven months in prison.
But even though she served her time, Sweeney said getting a job has been an uphill battle.
“Every time you’re filling out a job application your re-going through the same and the whole thing associated with all of it,” she told KOIN 6 News.
The move to “Ban the Box” on employment applications moves ahead Wednesday when public comment is heard at the Portland City Council.
“Ban the Box” is the verbal shorthand used in the effort to eliminate asking whether a job applicant has ever been convicted of a crime, helping people with criminal histories get a fair chance at jobs and stable housing.
Some business leaders support the proposal, but also say employers need to be able to conduct criminal background checks before making a job offer.
The ordinance would prevent Portland employers from asking about criminal convictions on job application forms.
“What it does is this allows people like me the opportunity to get in front of an employer,” she said. “So that way, if you like my skills, you think I’m a good fit for the company, it’s not an automatic ‘No.'”
“Banning the box makes sense, but employers need flexibility to review applicant backgrounds during the interview process when they believe it is necessary given the nature of the job,” said Sandra McDonough, the president and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance.
As the discussion continues, Sweeney hopes more employers will give people with a criminal history a second chance.
“Some of them can make better employees because they’re so grateful,” she said. “They’re working so hard. They need these jobs.”
Sweeney, by the way, just got a new job a week ago as a program coordinator with Volunteers of America.