Ban the Box: Helping Former Offenders Find Employment

Ban the Box, a campaign to end discrimination against those with criminal convictions, has been taking off across the country over the past several years. Ban the Box legislation has recently started to be enacted at the state level. A Minnesota law, SF 523, requiring private employers wait to ask about criminal history until the applicant is being interviewed or has been extended a conditional offer of employment goes into effect on January 1, 2014.

No More Criminal History Box

ban the box criminal history reformUnder these laws, job applications cannot include a “box” asking about criminal history. However, employers will still be able to ask about criminal history later in the screening process, either at the interview or with background checks. These laws are designed to prevent those with a criminal history from being summarily denied employment.

More than 50 cities and counties have adopted ban the box policies, but a majority of these only apply to city or county employers. However, the new Minnesota law shows the recent trend of the movement to extend these policies to private employers. Under Minnesota’s new law, private employers are prohibited from asking about a candidate’s criminal background until after he or she has been selected for an interview or has received a conditional offer of employment.

The EEOC Supports the Change

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance in support of the Ban the Box policies, providing that “the Commission recommends that employers not ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquiries, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.”

California also recently passed Ban the Box legislation. Assembly Bill 218 goes into effect July 1, 2014. Under AB 218, California state and local agencies, cities and counties must first determine an applicant’s minimum qualifications for the position before inquiring about his or her conviction history. AB 218 does not apply to law enforcement positions or positions where the applicant will work with children, the elderly, the disabled or other sensitive positions.

Banning the box allows former offenders to better compete for available jobs. Employment of these former offenders is a major factor affecting recidivism rates. Ban the box laws help give people with criminal histories a chance to reintegrate into society and the workforce. This will allow these individuals to rebuild their lives and stay out of prison; this will provide a great benefit society as well.

To keep from ever having to check that box again you can also try expunging your record.

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