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When can you ask a future employee if they have a record?

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon passed a new law changing the way companies can ask about a job applicant's criminal past,


Portland Mayor Charlie Hales wants to take it a step further. The new state law "bans the box," in other words, prevents companies from including questions on criminal history on job applications. Under the law, which starts Jan. 1, 2016, employers would be able to talk about criminal history during the job interview.


Hales' plan would prevent employers from checking on criminal histories until they make a job offer, and would allow companies to then take back the offer if the criminal history is too problematic. There would be exceptions, for example, for companies with fewer than six employees and for law enforcement jobs.


"Children and families suffer when people with criminal histories are unable to work," the proposed ordinance reads on the city's web site. "Employing people with criminal histories also improves public safety. Employment has been shown to be a major factor in reducing further illegal activity by those with criminal histories."


Some groups said they wanted to wait to see how Oregon's law fares before changing the regulations in Portland. The Portland Business Alliance said in a statement that it supports the state "ban the box" law.


"This law applies to Portland and the rest of the state and in our view will provide the best opportunity for applicants and employers to have an honest conversation during the interview process about whether past convictions would or would not be relevant for the specific job being filled," said the PBA statement. "We encourage the city to allow the new law to take effect and see how it works before doing something that sets Portland apart from the rest of the state."


A representative of the Dave's Killer Bread Foundation said the company supports "banning the box."


Genevieve Martin said Dave's Killer Bread has hired more than 100 people with criminal records.


"A third of our work force has a criminal background and has served some sort of time," said Martin. "And we just found they are incredibly dedicated, wonderful employees."


Wilhelm Mutz is production manager at the bakery that turns out about 4,000 loaves an hour. He said is a convicted felon who started as a pan stacker five years ago and worked his way up to his current position.


"I never baked bread before I worked here. But I'm a baker now. I'm passionate about what I do," said Mutz. He said giving ex-cons a chance can change lives.


Dave's Killer Bread founder Dave Dahl said he was in prison for years before his brother gave him a second chance, working at the family bakery.


"I have a beautiful life today in every avenue, and it all started right here with not being judged because of the fact that I am a felon," said Mutz.

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