The last time you completed a job application, the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” likely appeared somewhere on the document. Like all of the questions on a typical job application, this one is designed to instantly eliminate applicants who don’t meet specific company requirements from the competition. All of the questions asked of an applicant are designed to help streamline the process and keep business costs low – so why is this question and the box you check becoming an issue?

What is Ban the Box?

Proponents of the Ban the Box movement cite the difficulties that people who have to check “yes” to this question face. Often, employers won’t even consider an applicant with a conviction or record and stop reading the application once the “yes” box is checked. By eliminating the box, those convicted of a crime have a more even playing field and an opportunity to advance in the interviewing process.

A variety of states and cities have already adopted the Ban the Box legislation, requiring employers to shift their application process and preventing early employment screening based on criminal record. Areas that have banned the box for most industries do still allow it for jobs dealing with children or disabled, at risk adults; all other jobs are required to strike the question from early in the process

Who has Banned the Box?

With the most recent figures showing that 18 states and 100 cities have adopted Ban the Box, businesses need to be aware of potential changes and be ready to adapt to this evolving legislation. As of summer 2015, the following states have enacted Ban the Box laws and more are expected to follow suit:
New Jersey
New Mexico
Rhode Island

For more information, view our interactive Ban the Box United States Map.

Benefits for Applicants

The biggest benefit to applicants is to be able to avoid an initial pre-screening round that eliminates those with convictions or arrest records. This ability to get a “foot in the door” is cited as a pathway to higher level employment and possibilities after a jail stint or conviction. Proponents of the movement cite this ability to bypass basic applicant screening as the key benefit of Ban the Box.

Concerns for Employers

There are several aspects of Ban the Box that employers need to be aware of as this dynamic and changing legislature begins to have an impact on more locations:

Discrimination Penalties

As an HR pro or business owner, you already have best practices in place for avoiding discrimination in your application and interviewing policies based on Title VII rules, but Ban the Box adds a new level. Since this movement calls for a delay in asking about a criminal record, valid question and concerns about an applicant need to be raised at just the right point in the procedure. Ask too early and you risk penalties for doing so. What are those penalties? The same ones enacted for other Title VII discrimination in the workplace.

Increased Risk of Lawsuits

If you fail to research an applicant, hire someone dangerous and then they injure someone at work, who is to blame? The answer could be you – even if your state enacts Ban the Box. The burden of responsibility for these employees and their actions may shift more heavily to you if you don’t screen at the right time or omit screening at all because of Ban the Box.

Increased HR Costs

Any time you can eliminate applicants early in the process, you can cut the number of individuals you do need to screen, interview and spend time vetting in other ways. If your business absolutely will not consider hiring applicants with a record, then not being able to weed applicants that can‘t meet this requirement out early will increase your costs. From having to start the application process again with a new ad, new round of applicants and interviews to simply extending the time that you go with an unfilled position, Ban the Box could increase your costs.

The Ban the Box movement has far reaching implications that will impact your business, and makes it more important than ever that you properly screen your employees at the right point in the process. Applicant screening protects your business, your employers and your reputation and allows you to make the best hiring decisions in a timely manner. To learn more about the benefits of applicant screening and to follow the developing Ban the Box movement, contact us by calling (610) 355-2331 or follow our blog for the industry trends and news you need to know.

Kristina Taylor
In 1989, Kristina began her career as a customer service representative at the newly formed American Tenant Screen, Inc. Ten years later, she pioneered tenant background screening on the Internet. As a long-standing member of the National Multifamily Resident Information Council (formerly the National Association of Screening Agencies) Kristina gains insight into the trends of the tenant screening industry to better understand the current and future needs of their clients.

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