In 1998, the state of Hawaii began what would become a civil rights campaign that is now known as Ban the Box. The campaign fights for those with criminal records or histories to gain fair employment as part of their return to the job market. Many people who were previously incarcerated for a crime are often discriminated against as early as the application process when searching for a suitable job. Many public and private sectors have a box on their application requiring the applicant to indicate if they have a criminal past. If the box is checked yes, many employers discard the application immediately. Ban the Box fights to remove the criminal history box from job applications, and has even had influence in removing the box from housing applications as well.
To date, the Ban the Box campaign has had success in over 45 cities and counties that include New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, and more. Seven states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Mexico) have joined in the movement, changing their hiring practices for public employment in the effort to limit discrimination against those with arrest and conviction records.
The campaign argues that those who cannot find employment due to their criminal past often find their way back to crime. By eliminating the demand for knowledge of an applicant’s criminal record until a conditional job offer has been made will help employers judge their applicants equally based on their skills, accomplishments, education, experience, and qualities.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has already updated and strengthened its policies regarding the employment process and employment decisions. The EEOC has even began prosecuting employers who have outright denied potential applicants based on criminal history.
There are arguments and opposition to the Ban the Box campaign. Opposers to the campaign have argued that such legislation could increase the number of lawsuits filed by unsuccessful applicants. There may be instances where an applicant’s criminal background has a direct effect on the position for which he or she is applying. For example, a violent or sex-related crime would be extremely relevant if the former convict was applying for a position in education or as a public servant. The Huffington Post addresses this issue among others that could hinder the campaign’s success.
This campaign is a movement that is already affecting many companies in a variety of cities and states. Regardless of your position on the matter, it is important to stay aware of the changes in legislation that directly affect your hiring process and HR policies.