Ban the Box

"Ban the Box" refers to a growing movement and set of laws intended to remove barriers for individuals with criminal conviction records from getting hired for jobs. Specifically, "the Box" is the typical question asked on applications: "Have you been convicted of a crime?" This movement seeks to eliminate this question on job applications and prevent employers from inquiring about criminal convictions until later in the job interview process or until after an offer of employment has been extended. Furthermore, if a prior conviction is discovered, the employer must individually assess each candidate and not have a blanket "no hire" policy for applicants with records.

Over 80 cities and counties in 38 states now have "Ban the Box" laws. 13 states have implemented the law, with 8 passing laws within the last couple of years. This trend is growing with many more cities and states considering similar legislation. NYC, California, New Jersey, Chicago, Massachusetts, Connecticut are just a few of the locations with these laws. The list goes on and is growing.

If you haven't heard about it, you're not alone. These new laws haven't gotten too much attention. But that will change. Lawsuits are beginning to emerge. One employer was recently fined $95,000 in NY for having a blanket policy that automatically disqualified candidates with a conviction record from getting hired. While laws in each location will vary, common themes include the following:

  • Employers cannot ask about an applicant's criminal record until later in the job interview process or after an offer of employment has been extended
  • Employers cannot discriminate against applicants who have a criminal record unless the crime has a direct correlation to the job
  • The employer must consider each applicant and their circumstances individually, such as the nature of the crime, when the crime was committed, and age of the applicant at the time he/she committed the crime
  • Employers cannot have blanket policies and practices that disqualify applicants on the basis of having a criminal record, regardless of the crime

Implications for Employers:

  • Applications should be redone to eliminate the conviction question
  • The hiring process should be reviewed to ensure that the timing and necessity of background checks and criminal record inquiries are consistent with the law
  • Policies and practices surrounding the hiring of applicants with criminal records should be updated to provide an individual review of applicants with records
  • Employers should have a notification process for applicants disqualified for hire due to their criminal record
  • Hiring managers may need retraining on how to handle applicants with criminal records

It's important to note that "Ban the Box" laws do not require companies to hire applicants with criminal records. They are intended to eliminate an automatic disqualification because of a record and to push the discussion of a record off until the applicant's qualifications are determined. The goal is to give individuals with records more employment opportunities by evaluating their skills and experience first, before evaluating if the crime is related to the job.

In 2015, you will likely be hearing more about these laws as new lawsuits are brought forward. Additionally, the EEOC is beginning to take a tougher stand on this issue as well. We recommend getting ahead of it before it adversely impacts your business.

Excelerator Consulting wishes you a Happy New Year!

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