An increasing number of states, counties, and cities have passed so called “Ban the Box” legislation which seeks to limit discrimination against applicants with a criminal record. Some state’s laws only apply to public employers, and others include private employers and have an impact on small business.
The “box” in question is found on employment applications and asks the applicant to ‘check the box’ to disclose prior criminal convictions. The new legislation mandates that a background check occur only after the interview process, and that applicants are not asked about criminal records until they are in the final stages of the selection process. In some cases, the background check is only allowed post-offer. The laws are varied and can include county/city workers (and the vendors that do business with them), and private employers. In September of 2011 the city of Cleveland ‘Banned the Box’ for felony record questions for city employees and civil service test applications.
Ex offenders frequently cite the barriers they face trying to get a foot in the door for an interview when they have a criminal offense on their record. Proponents of “Ban the Box” legislation propose that offenders already face huge hurdles, such as housing and other basic needs. Proponents of the laws state that the inability to gain employment can be a contributing factor to reoffending. Many point out that a released offender has paid their dues, and deserves the chance to start a new life over.
In some cases, “Ban the Box” laws completely eliminate background checks for certain positions in county and/or city jobs and the vendors that do business with them; in others, it just changes the timing of the background check. In all cases, it does affect who is invited in for an interview. Officials at the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are already reviewing their current guidelines concerning employment screening. It’s only a matter of time until federal legislation or guidance is published.
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