What Is Ban the Box?
Ban-the-box laws have grown exponentially in recent years; now, four-fifths of the U.S. population lives under one of these laws. Starting with laws banning a checkbox asking if employees have felonies on their records, this ban expands its protections for those who have previously interacted with the criminal justice system. Let’s take a closer look at what these laws do and what they mean for you as a jobseeker.
How Does This Help Protect Potential Jobseekers?
Ban-the-box laws help those with criminal records have an equal opportunity to acquire employment. It does this by restricting access to an applicant’s criminal records until after an employer has neutrally assessed their skills and qualifications.
Since their origin, ban-the-box laws have barred employers from asking applicants about their criminal history on initial job applications. However, many of these laws have grown in scope. Now, specific laws require employers to wait until after the initial interview or conditional offer before asking about the employee’s criminal history.
Some also impose additional requirements if an employer chooses to deny an applicant employment based on their criminal record. For example, New York City and California require the employer to perform a multi-factor analysis to justify denying individual employment. Employers must also give the applicant notice of this denial, allowing the latter a chance to respond and provide evidence that may mitigate any concerns regarding the record.
However, it is essential to remember that most of these laws provide exemptions for positions relating to security and those that work with vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly.
What Does This Mean for Me?
Job seekers with criminal records have an equal hiring opportunity as competitors with clean records. In most cases, employers can and will run background checks on prospective employees. States with a ban-the-box law require these companies to conduct background checks later in the hiring process, allowing job seekers with criminal records the same opportunity as their competition. This adjustment prevents prejudice from the start, allowing skills and qualifications to prove you are equally capable as anyone else.
Which States Have Ban the Box Laws?
In total, 35 states and the federal government have introduced a ban-the-box law or policy regarding public employment. In addition, 15 states, 22 cities, and counties possess ban-the-box laws covering private employers. These states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Moreover, these laws are continuously expanding, and more states will soon adopt ban-the-box type laws.
Ban-the-box laws can offer job seekers with a criminal history the chance to let their skills and qualifications shine when seeking employment before the employer considers their criminal records. However, employers are still likely to consider these records, so job seekers should perform self-background checks before submitting applications. Self-background checks ensure your record is accurate and prepare you for explaining any convictions that will show up.