As expected, the list of states to “ban the box” on job applications is growing. On June 1, 2016, Connecticut became the latest state to pass legislation that prohibits criminal history questions on employment applications. The new law becomes effective January 1, 2017, making Connecticut the ninth state to extend ban the box legislation to private sector employers.
Termed “ban the box” for the question on job applications, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”, the laws restrict an employer from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until the job interview — or, in some cases, after the applicant is qualified and offered a position. By delaying a conviction inquiry until later in the hiring process, employers can help support a fairer job market for the millions of people with criminal records.
Does Your State Ban the Box?
The first state to pass a ban the box law was Hawaii, which eliminated the question for both public and private sector employers in 1998. On a local level, Philadelphia was the first major city to ban the box for public and private employers in 2011.
Today, 24 states and more than 100 cities restrict criminal history questions on job applications. In some states, the law only applies to public employers, but it affects both public and private employers in other states. Here’s how it breaks down:
Fifteen states ban the box with public employers only:
- New Mexico
- New York
Nine states ban the box with public and private employers:
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
Plus … District of Columbia
How to Comply with Ban the Box Laws
It’s important to understand that you’re not prohibited from conducting a legally sound background check on an otherwise qualified individual. Nor are you required to hire an individual with a criminal record. Instead, the purpose of ban the box legislation is to shift the criminal history inquiry from the initial application stage until later in the hiring process, when you hold an interview or extend a conditional job offer.
Some additional considerations:
- Ban the box laws may restrict inquiries to certain types of convictions, barring questions about non-conviction arrests or expunged records
- Certain industries and jobs are exempt, such as positions in child care, health care, law enforcement and finance
How can you be confident you’re in compliance with the new ban the box laws? First and foremost, review and revise all employment applications to be sure they don’t include a criminal history question. Next, modify your hiring procedures to delay any inquiries about criminal history until it’s appropriate. Finally, rely on attorney-approved applications to be certain you’re complying with the latest mandatory legal disclosures and avoiding any illegal questions with applicants.