Barry: ‘It is wrong’ to deny ex-cons jobs

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Members of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce have deemed the bill “unworkable” out of a fear that businesses will face discrimination lawsuits.

In urging support for his measure, Mr. Barry rattled off a list of cities and states that have passed similar legislation.

“Why should the District be on the back of the bus?” he said. “We should be in the forefront.”

But business interests seem more inclined to support a separate bill by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, a Democrat, that would decrease the number of years that ex-offenders must wait to apply to have their criminal records sealed for certain crimes. It also creates a “certificates of good standing” program to document ex-offenders’ progress after their encounters with the criminal justice system and grants employers limited liability if they are sued for negligence after making a good effort to check out an ex-offender during the hiring process.

Mr. Mendelson tried to vote down Mr. Barry’s bill at the committee level. Although he did not succeed, he may have the last laugh if he makes sure Mr. Barry’s bill does not appear on the council’s legislative agenda before the end of the year.

“The [Barry] bill, I think, runs the risk of generating an awful lot of litigation,” he said.

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