"Ban the Box"

Just before Thanksgiving, the city of Portland, OR passed its own “Ban the box” law, which goes into law effective on July 1, 2016.  The law goes further than the current Oregon ban the box law in that with some exceptions, it also bars questions about criminal history in interviews as well.  Employers can only investigate job candidates’ criminal histories only after extending contingent job offers.  If, after making the conditional job offer, an employer learns of the applicant’s criminal history, the law states than an employer can rescind the offer after determining that rejecting the applicant would be job related and consistent with business necessity. 

What is “Ban the box?”

The ban the box movement was started by civil rights activists, aimed at persuading employers to remove the check box that asks applicants if they have a criminal record.  The purpose of this is so that ex-offenders can display their qualifications in the hiring process before being asked about their criminal record.  Activists believe that the question makes it harder for qualified ex-offenders to get a job, and more likely that they will become a repeat offender. 

 Companies with “Ban the box”

Without any requirements to do so, national companies including Walmart, Koch Industries, Target, Starbucks, Home Depot, and Bed Bath & Beyond have implemented “ban the box.”  Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz has been a big supporter of the “ban the box” movement, which provides a second chance to the 70 million Americans who have a criminal record. 

States and Cities with “Ban the box” laws

Nationwide, over 100 cities and 19 states have passed ban the box measures.  The most recent states in 2015 include, Georgia, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Virginia.  Be sure to look if your state or city has ban the box or similar laws to be sure you are compliant.

President Obama’s Stance

In early November speaking at Rutger’s University in New Jersey, President Obama said that he was direction federal agencies to ban the box during hiring decisions.  He believes that federal agencies should give applicants a “chance to get through the door,” while delaying questioning about criminal history until after their experience and work background has been considered.  He has since issued an executive order for ban the box for federal employees.

How to protect yourself

1-    Amend the job applications to make sure there are no questions about criminal history.

2-    Train hiring managers and interviewers to not ask illegal questions.

3-    Hold off on background checks until the appropriate time according to the law.

4-    Be prepared to assess the criminal history and be able to determine if the history would hamper the person from position.  If not, then you could find yourself in legal issues.