As the Second Chance movement continues to gain momentum, new Ban the Box laws are being considered and implemented throughout the U.S.
Ban The Box Basics
Ban the Box (BtB) laws are designed to create employment opportunities for people who have criminal convictions in their past. Numerous states, cities and employers have implemented BtB laws. While they are not consistent, the basic concept is usually the same. Employers may not include questions about criminal records on their job applications.
When an applicant checks a box to indicate they have a conviction, the employer is unlikely to consider whether or not it has bearing on their eligibility. In most cases, the individual is immediately disqualified. Banning the box creates more opportunities for people to be interviewed. Candidates who appear to be qualified can then authorize a background check that helps the employer make an informed hiring decision.
New BtB bills are passed each year. Here are three examples of cities that recently approved or are considering similar laws.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The city of New Orleans passed a Ban the Box law in 2016 and created a stronger version in 2019. This one covers applications for city contractors, which were not included in the original bill. Individuals who apply for these contract positions will be asked to authorize a background check after being deemed otherwise eligible.
New Bern, North Carolina
New Bern adopted a Ban the Box law in March, 2019. Corey Purdie, a resident, was a major proponent of this bill. He was arrested as a teenager and incarcerated for nine years. When he was released, Purdie had difficulty finding employment. A BtB law could help people who are in similar situations.
Waterloo City, Iowa
Waterloo City appears to be on the verge of passing a BtB law. This is not the city’s first attempt. Similar bills were presented in 2012 and 2015, but both were rejected. A new bill was introduced in 2019. This version is expected to pass and become active later in the year.
Background Checks Remain Essential
As more Ban the Box laws are created, one thing remains constant. Employers that operate in the U.S. are encouraged to run comprehensive background checks before making hiring decisions. These reports show the employer if a candidate has a reportable conviction and provide useful information such as whether or not the person has a required license, employment history or education.
Abraham Funchess, Executive Director of the Waterloo Commission on Human Rights, has been a proponent of banning the box since 2012. He believes that people who served their time deserve a second chance and remains strongly in favor of employers performing due diligence. While speaking about background checks, Funchess stated: “We obviously are asking people to continue to let common sense rule. We wouldn’t be asking anyone to uh put sex offenders in schools we wouldn’t be asking people who have embezzled to be working at banks.”
What Employers Should Know
If you operate in an area where a Ban the Box law is active, then you may not include questions about criminal records on your job applications. Regardless of your location, current best practice is to run background checks after conducting an interview. Some states have specific requirements – consult with your legal counsel if you are not certain which laws apply for your organization.
When you’re ready to run background checks, please contact us. Our team keeps up with compliance-related topics and can help you build customized background screening packages. Running them shows you are performing due diligence, dedicated to creating a safe workplace and getting the facts you need before making hiring decisions.