So, have you heard of the Ban the Box movement? It’s the unofficial name of the movement to expand the Fair Criminal
Record Screening Act and it’s gaining momentum around the country. The idea behind Ban the Box is that a lot of employers have a box on their applications asking if you’ve ever committed a crime. If you check yes, they won’t read the rest. They won’t read your qualifications or recommendations or even really look into how long ago the crime was or whether it had anything to do with your job. They’ll just round file your application.
The view of the folks behind this is, that’s not really fair. Maybe somebody pulled some stupid stuff as a young person but learned from his mistakes and is super committed to being a responsible citizen now. Maybe he got a DUI, but you’re not hiring him as a driver you’re hiring him as a retail sales manager, and he would have been great. With the box, that employee—the belief is—might just despair of looking for a job and return to criminal behavior. The box is a barrier to starting over. The box could inspire more crime.
Then there’s the other argument that people who have made mistakes in their pasts may be fantastic employees with great credentials. And employers are losing out.
Of course, sometimes there are solid reasons for not hiring someone with a record. Someone with a DUI is most likely not going to be hired to handle deliveries. Your business insurance carrier that covers drivers is going to see that as a liability, even if the person was fully repentant. Somebody with a record of sex crimes or violence may have restrictions on working with and around children. Someone who was convicted of embezzling from his last employer probably won’t become your comptroller.
But the Ban the Box movement isn’t really trying to make it so that employers can’t filter for past crimes. They only ask that you can’t ask about a person’s criminal record until you’re ready to make an offer. By that point, they figure, you’ve given the candidate a fair shot and recognize that he or she could be valuable to the company. You have a right, then, to the information about his or her criminal record.
The campaign started with public employers and now more than 45 cities and counties, including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, and San Francisco have removed the box from their employment applications. Seven states, Hawaii, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, have made changes that leveled the playing field for applicants with criminal records. Some private employers are banning the box of their own volition.
Employers have an important responsibility to their companies, existing employees, customers, partners and vendors. But they should also avoid unfair discrimination while protecting their constituents. Should you ban the box? If you need help figuring that out, call us.