Guest editorial by: Jennifer Gladstone
It seems like every single week we are announcing another state or jurisdiction adding or broadening their “Ban the Box” policies. They each have a slightly different name, and the details about which employers are included vary, but one by one, municipalities are being swept up in the ban the box bandwagon.
Ban the Box legislation generally prohibits employers from asking if an applicant has a criminal past at the beginning of the hiring process. It essentially removes the yes or no question from initial applications. Most times, the question is allowed after a candidate passes the first interview, or before a job offer is made.
Supporters hail this legislation as a way to take some of the prejudice out of hiring and to give people a second chance. News stories are popping up all over the country as it becomes obvious that this is the wave of the future. But should it be? The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) has officially weighed in on this issue.
NAPBS says it’s “highly skeptical” when it comes to the need for these laws. The first concern is that it takes the power away from the employer to decide who should be on their payroll. Their recently published paper says, “The same character traits that led to an individual’s contact with the criminal justice system could very well be the same ones that render that individual an unsuitable employee.” The association says it should be up to the employer, who knows the company and knows its culture, to make the decision what information is relevant… not the government.
NAPBS also calls the ban the box movement inefficient and says it causes too much uncertainty for employers. Each law is different- some just literally get rid of that box on the application, while others require employers to investigate an applicant’s criminal record and determine if it relates to the job they are seeking. This means employers that hire in different jurisdictions now have to adjust to the specifics for each state and municipality.
It’s not just confusing, it costs employers time and money. Some positions and industries have requirements that prohibit someone with a criminal record from getting a job. With ban the box, employers are required to take candidates through interviews, only to discover later that they must be disqualified.
The biggest concern is that several of these laws conflict with other laws like the FCRA and state laws prohibiting the hire of ex-offenders for certain positions. According to NAPBS this legislation has a negative impact on business, and that impact will only continue to grow.
It is essential for employers understand the laws in their state, and in any other state where they operate. Your background screening company and your legal counsel are your best resources.