As of December 2016, more than 150 cities and counties have joined the Ban the Box movement. Started in 2004 by civil rights group All of Us or None, Ban the Box – also referred to as “Fair Chance Act” -- encourages employers to remove the question and check the box, “Have you been convicted by a court?” from employment applications in effort to provide applicants a fair chance at consideration. The purpose of Ban the Box is to delay background check inquiries until later in the hiring process, so that employers evaluate applicants based on their qualifications – rather than automatically screening out former offenders.
None of this is to say, however, that questions around criminal records should be eliminated completely. Every Ban the Box law includes provisions that allow employers to run a background check and make inquiries about criminal records in accordance with state laws.
There are three main reasons employers should continue to ask about criminal records and run background checks:
- An employer has an obligation to provide a safe work environment for employees and visitors.
- It offers protection against negligent hiring.
- Falsification and/or failing to answer to the question honestly could still be a factor to consider when making hiring decisions.
- Remove the question from the initial job application.
- Make it a consistent practice to ask the criminal question after a contingent offer of employment.
- Ask the criminal question during the background screening stage.
- Review job application forms on a regular basis.
When to Ask About Criminal History
CareerBuilder Employment Screening (formerly Aurico) recommends that employers ask the criminal background question after a contingent offer of employment and during the background screening stage. CareerBuilder Employment Screening is able to accommodate presenting the question on behalf of the employer through technology and at the same time the candidate is providing information for their background screen. An additional service CareerBuilder Employment Screening provides is that we will go back to the county of record to verify whenever a candidate answers the question positively.
More Campaigns in Place
Another recent initiative to further fair hiring practices is the Fair Chance Business Pledge, started in 2016 by President Obama. The goal of the initiative was “a nationwide call-to-action to accomplish the shared goal of creating a stronger set of opportunities for people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system.” American Airlines, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, Hersheys, Intel, Lyft, Kroger, Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Prudential, Starbucks, Target, Walmart and Xerox are all among the employers who have already committed their pledge to this initiative.
Does Ban the Box Help or Hurt Employment?
Though there will likely be an increase in Ban the Box legislation across the country in 2017, there’s some evidence to suggest Ban the Box may actually hinder an applicant’s chance of getting a job. According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research they found that Ban the Box policies decrease the probability of young, low-skilled African American and Hispanic men. In addition, their findings support the hypothesis that when an applicant’s criminal history is unavailable, employers statistically discriminate against demographic groups that are likely to have a criminal record.
To help ensure fair hiring practices, here are some recommendations:
- Banning the Box by delaying criminal history questions until later in the hiring process.
- Training human resources staff on making fair decisions regarding applicants with criminal records.
- Ensuring internships and job training are available to individuals with criminal records.
- Using reliable background check providers to help ensure accuracy.
- Hosting a Fair Chance and Opportunity Job Fair.