LANSING (WWJ/AP) – A Democratic Michigan lawmaker is launching an effort to prevent employers from asking about a person’s criminal background on job applications.

Democratic Rep. Fred Durhal of Detroit introduced a bill this week to remove the question of previous felony convictions from job applications. He said the question unfairly puts people trying to turn their life around at a disadvantage.

“It’s no secret that many resumes with a checkmark in the box saying that, ‘yes, I have a felony conviction,’ end up being disregarded when, in fact, that person may be perfect for the job if they only had a chance to meet with a prospective employer and address their background in person,” he said in a written statement.

Durhal said the bill — which would apply to all employers and not just public employers — will give people a chance to explain their conviction in person during an interview, rather than being turned away immediately. Employers would still be able to perform background checks to find convictions.

Durhal said banning the box on the initial job application would help employers find talented and qualified employees whose felony conviction has little bearing on their ability to perform a specific job.

A similar measure introduced last year didn’t make it through the Legislature.

Currently, 43 cities and counties, including Detroit and Kalamazoo, have banned the box on their employment applications, and a number of them require vendors and contractors to do the same. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also encourages employers to eliminate policies and practices that exclude people from employment based on any criminal record.

“This is a full employment bill because it will open the doors to a job for many people who now have an extremely difficult time turning their lives around. Just because you made a mistake in the past doesn’t automatically mean you are unfit for a job. My bill will help people get a job and become the productive members of society that we want and need them to be,” he said.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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