HB 56 requires public employers to consider potential employees based on their qualifications first rather than on a criminal conviction. The bill prohibits inquiries into an applicant’s criminal background during the general application portion of the hiring process. Only when the employer is ready to make an offer of employment, can they inquire into the employee’s criminal background.  Unless an applicant with particular criminal history is specifically excluded from employment by state or federal law, an applicant cannot be automatically disqualified from employment based upon a criminal conviction.

If the applicant does have a criminal conviction, the employer must consider a variety of factors before denying the applicant employment. Employers must disclose if the applicant’s criminal history was the basis of denying employment.

Additionally, the bill limits the use of criminal convictions in the termination process.  Under the bill, a felony conviction can only be used as a sanction, reduction in pay or position, or grounds for termination when the felony occurs during employment.

HB 56 does not apply to private employers.

Jurisdiction/Legislation Level


LCS Legislation Status


Our Take on This Bill

The mass incarceration of individuals within the United States has reached a critical level.  Ohio has one of the country’s largest populations of incarcerated individuals. Although many of these individuals serve short sentences for non-violent offenses, they face significant employment barriers upon release due to the stigma associated with a criminal conviction.  Currently, many qualified formerly incarcerated individuals are precluded from the application process due to this stigma. HB 56 addresses the issue by compelling employers to consider a formerly incarcerated applicant’s qualifications without the stigma of their criminal background.

The ACLU of Ohio supports HB 56 because it aligns with the ACLU’s position on breaking down the barriers for re-entry.  HB 56 prevents the automatic disqualification of qualified applicants with criminal backgrounds. This will allow more formerly incarcerated people to gain legitimate employment, and reduce recidivism.

Bill Status

Introduced in the House on 2/10/15

Referred to the House Commerce & Labor Committee on 2/11/15

Received Committee hearings on 2/17/15, 3/3/15, 3/17/15, 6/9/15, 6/16/15, 6/23/15

Passed out of the House Commerce & Labor Committee on 6/23/15

Passed the House on 9/30/15

Introduced in the Senate on 10/1/15

Referred to the Senate State & Local Government Committee on 10/7/15

Received Committee hearings on 10/20/15, 12/1/15, 12/9/15

Passed out of the Senate State & Local Government Committee on 12/9/15

Passed the Senate on 12/9/15

House concurred in Senate amendments on 12/9/15

Signed by the Governor on 12/22/15

Effective as of 3/23/16


Commerce and Labor (H)


Rep. Antonio (D), Rep. Becker (R), Rep. Bishoff (D), Rep. Boyd (D), Rep. Brenner (R), Rep. Dever (R), Rep. Driehaus (D), Rep. Fedor (D), Rep. Hood (R), Rep. Leland (D), Rep. Lepore-Hagan (D), Rep. Maag (R), Rep. Reece (D), Rep. Retherford (R), Rep. Ruhl (


Rep. Schuring (R), Rep. Slesnick (D)



Bill number

HB 56