Employers are getting mixed signals when it comes to criminal background checks. As always, human resources professionals are concerned about liability for not having adequate information to make good hiring decisions. Meanwhile, a number of states and municipalities are implementing “Ban the Box” laws that limit how criminal histories can be used.
Nationwide, 18 states and 100 cities and counties have adopted “Ban the Box” regulations, the National Employment Law Project reports. “Ban the Box” rules aim to encourage employers to consider a job applicant’s qualifications before being influenced by the discovery of a criminal history.
What’s driving “Ban the Box?”
The international “Ban the Box” campaign began in 2004 and was named for the checkbox on job applications indicating a criminal background. The campaign has gained significant momentum in the past several years, in part spurred by federal government endorsement.
Trying to level the playing field
New Jersey’s version of “Ban the Box”, dubbed the Opportunity to Compete Act, restricts both public and private employers with more than 15 employees from asking about criminal records before an initial interview.
Like New Jersey, more states and local governments are considering “Ban the Box” regulations that would restrict private employers. For example, the New York City Council recently approved the Fair Chance Act, which requires employers to make a conditional job offer before asking about an applicant’s criminal history or conducting a criminal background check.
What actions should employers take?
While employers may have valid reasons for conducting criminal background checks even at early stages of the interview process, hiring procedures must comply with all local, state and federal laws. Many employers are acting preemptively and removing criminal background questions from applications regardless of current state and local laws.
Employers should ensure that all hiring managers have adequate training on procedures and that any hiring decisions involving applicants with criminal histories are fully documented, notes Small Business Trends.
“Ban the Box”: A new level of complexity
Hiring professionals already follow detailed procedures to avoid any discriminatory practices. “Ban the Box” adds complexity and cost to the process by delaying inquiries about criminal histories. But the burden of responsibility for bad hiring decisions still rests with employers.