On October 14, California became the latest state to “ban the box.” Assembly bill 1008 added restrictions on an employer’s ability to make pre-hiring decisions based on a candidate’s criminal history. The new rule will go into effect in that state on January 1, 2018.
But what is Ban the Box? And what does it mean for hiring managers?
Ban The Box Rundown
Ban the Box is a civil rights initiative for getting more ex-offenders back into the workforce. The goal is to persuade companies to stop considering a person’s criminal record early in the hiring process.
Ban-the-box laws, also known as “Fair Chance” laws, still allow hiring managers to ask about a candidate’s criminal record. They also allow companies to reject a candidate after the person has disclosed this information.
But the rules do stop hiring managers from asking a candidate about his or her criminal record at the beginning of the hiring process, such as on a job application. The goal is to give ex-offenders more of an opportunity to display their skills and qualifications for a position.
Most municipalities exempt sensitive positions from ban-the-box laws, such as jobs working with children.
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The movement started in Hawaii in the late 1990s. And it gained strength during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. This is because a growing number of Americans were having trouble finding work, combined with a higher number of workers with criminal backgrounds due to changes in drug sentencing laws.
Today, there are 29 states and 150 municipalities that have banned the box.
Federally, President Obama endorsed the initiative by directing federal agencies to delay inquiries into a job applicant’s criminal record until later in the hiring process. And in 2013, Target removed questions about criminal records from their applications.
Civil rights advocates maintain that anything that makes it more difficult for an ex-offender to find a job increases the likelihood of the person re-offending. But some organizations disagree.
Industry groups like the National Retail Federation have criticized Ban the Box. They contend that such rules expose their customers to potential crime. And the National Federation of Independent Businesses also opposes the new rules. In 2014, the small-business advocacy group helped kill a ban-the-box bill in Louisiana.
Results Of Banning The Box
Rod Fliegel, an attorney in San Francisco, said it is difficult to determine the causal relationship between ban-the-box and hiring, especially given how complex the hiring process can be.
However, another attorney, Jay Hux of Fisher Phillips in Chicago, said, “Most employers make hiring decisions based on good faith, and the ban-the-box laws do typically encourage employers to conduct an interview or go further in the application process before requesting criminal background information.”
Employers must carefully consider the best time to ask about a candidate’s criminal background. Local ban-the-box rules may vary. But in general, employers should ask about a person’s criminal record only after a conditional offer of employment has been extended.
If you’re looking for more information, the National Employment Law Project released a fact sheet about Ban the Box in August 2017. You can download it here.
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