EMPLOYMENT BACKGROUND CHECKS
Ban The Box Laws Are Becoming Popular Nationwide
Ban the box refers to the question or check box on employment applications asking whether the candidate has ever been convicted of a crime.
According to the National Employment Law Project, as of July 01, 2019, at least 33 states have adopted a policy that prohibits employers from removing applicants before they are considered for an interview.
In November 2015, President Obama announced that he was ordering the federal government’s HR department to delay inquiries about criminal background until later in the hiring process. He encouraged Congress to follow their lead and consider legislation that would ban the box more broadly
Ban the Box is a growing trend in many cities and states. These “Ban The Box” laws are designed to restrict employers from asking job applicants about criminal convictions prior to an interview or being made a conditional job offer.
So far, the following 9 states:
Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, have banned the conviction history question on job applications for private employers.
In total, over 100 cities, counties and states now have some form of ban the box legislation.
Do companies doing business in multiple states or cities now have to consider the law and policy of each location, causing employers to deal with different laws depending on where they’re located?
We asked Sissy Egan, who manages the operations and administrative functions.of Human resources consulting firm Seay Management Consultants.
She advises that:
“An employer is covered by the regulations in the states and cities where the employee works so this question should not appear on the application for those locations that have “ban the box” legislation in effect. Employers cannot inquire about criminal histories until after a conditional job offer.”
We also posed another question to Ms. Egan:
“Does this question apply to “Ban the Box” ?
“Have you had your driver’s license suspended or revoked in the last 3 years? Yes No If yes, give details……”
Ms. Egan believes that “Under Ban the Box provisions it is permissible to ask if an applicant has a valid driver’s license as that question alone does not solicit criminal conviction information. Administrative determinations made by the DMV are not criminal convictions.
However, if the license suspension or revocation is connected to a criminal offense then there is the potential of it leading to a discriminatory hiring decision based on checking the box. Our recommendation is to wait until extending a conditional job offer where the applicant would undergo the background check which would include a DMV report.”
As of 2016, there are 24 states from almost every section of the country that have adopted Ban The Box laws or policies:
Illinois (2014, 2013),
Minnesota (2013, 2009),
New Jersey (2014),
New Mexico (2010),
New York (2015),
Rhode Island (2013),
Vermont (2015, 2016),
Ban the box legislation is designed to delay criminal record background check inquiries until later into the hiring process.
Presumably the result is that employers will not automatically preclude ex-offenders from employment and that the employer will evaluate applicants based on their qualifications and skills as if they had no criminal record.
The Law Of Unintended Consequences
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, conducted by Jennifer L Doleac of the Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy University of Virginia and Benjamin Hansen of the Department of Economics at the University of Oregon found some unintended harmful consequences to the very minorities it was designed to help.
The joint study titled: Does “Ban the Box” Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories are Hidden
They were not surprised when they uncovered some negative effects of Ban the Box laws.
The study found that city and state “Ban The Box” laws, which are adopted as a way of avoiding the initial criminal record questions on an employment application and moving criminal record background checks to later in the employment screening process, sometimes had a negative result.
“We find that BTB policies decrease the probability of being employed by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled black men, and by 2.3 percentage points (2.9%) for young, low-skilled Hispanic men. These findings support the hypothesis that when an applicant’s criminal history is unavailable, employers statistically discriminate against demographic groups that are likely to have a criminal record.”
While Ban the Box is meant to help minority job seekers, the study found “removing information about job applicants’ criminal histories could lead employers who don’t want to hire ex-offenders to try to guess who the ex-offenders are, and avoid interviewing them. In particular, employers might avoid interviewing young, low-skilled, black and Hispanic men when criminal records are not observable.”
Ms. Doleac, in an article dated August 5th 2016 on the University of Virginia website,in explaining her lack of surprise said:
“Basically, what we know about the impact of these types of laws is that providing more information about job applicants increases hiring of racial minorities, and taking information away decreases employment for those groups,”
Ms. Doleac is further quoted as saying:
“I’ve done work on discrimination in the past and the first thing that jumped into my mind when I heard about ‘ban the box’ was, ‘This is going to backfire. This is just going to result in statistical discrimination against groups that are more likely to have criminal records,’”
The study found that While Ban the Box is meant to help minority job seekers,
“removing information about job applicants’ criminal histories could lead employers who don’t want to hire ex-offenders to try to guess who the ex-offenders are, and to avoid interviewing them.
In particular, employers might avoid interviewing young, low-skilled, black and Hispanic men when criminal records are not observable.”
The UVA Today article explains how the Ban the Box study highlights the unintended negative consequences of policies limiting access to backgrounds of applicants by employers.
“Basically, what we know about the impact of these types of laws is that providing more information about job applicants increases hiring of racial minorities, and taking information away decreases employment for those groups,” Ms. Doleac said.