The University of Michigan “Bans the Box” for New Applicants

The University of Michigan announced in November that it would remove two questions about a job applicant’s criminal history from their applications. The questions had asked whether or not the applicants had ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, including those related to drug or alcohol-related driving offenses, and if the applicant had currently pending felony charges against them.

The University intends to continue asking these questions but will do so as part of a background check if the applicant accepts the position. The University came to this decision after student organizations, and criminal justice activists requested that the University ban the box, which meant they wanted the University to remove the box on job applications that job applicants are asked to check if they have any criminal convictions.  The University had already removed questions about misdemeanor charges from its admission application.

The University claims it removed the questions from the job application in an effort to encourage people looking for a job by not having them disclose their background at first. The University spokesperson said they wanted to conduct job interviews first and then conduct a background check after finding a qualified candidate and then determine if any convictions are related to the job. The spokesperson said this allows job seekers to feel more confident about applying for jobs and keeps them from being disqualified for a job due to unrelated convictions. They also said that the decision to remove the questions was a result of seeing other employers had removed the questions and not due to campus activism.

The spokesperson claims that although there is activist activity to ban the box, the University did not change its policy as a result of this activism but rather a desire for more equity and inclusion in its hiring process.

Ban the box laws have been growing all across the country. Some of these laws simply ban asking about a person’s criminal history on an application; whereas, other laws restrict asking about an applicant’s criminal history before a conditional job offer is made. Then, some laws even have strict requirements for what reasons an employer can use for rescinding a job offer. The changes to remove questions regarding criminalhistory by the University of Michigan are in line with requirements implemented by many other employers nationwide. However, in most cases, this still permits a background check to be performed at a later point in the hiring process.

Your personal background check is required for literally everything in your life these days, from employers to rentals. Take control of yours.


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