IT Employment

Ban the Box seeks to prohibit companies from asking about criminal records on applications

Proponents of Ban the Box want to prohibit employers from asking job candidates about their criminal history on an application.

Would it surprise you to know that nearly one in four adults in the United States has a criminal record? It's true, and that's why some civil rights organizations, politicians, and employers are appealing to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to make a change to their guidelines. The interested parties want to "ban the box" -- the portion on a job application asking candidates to reveal details of their criminal history during the application process.

What Ban-the-Box advocates hope to do is to reduce unfair barriers to employment for people with criminal records in both the public and private sectors. Some states already are independently changing their guidelines. Connecticut in June 2010 became the fourth state after Minnesota, New Mexico, and Hawaii to enact Ban-the-Box laws for state jobs. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle are among the cities that have enacted ordinances prohibiting employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their criminal backgrounds.

Proponents of Ban the Box say that they don't want to prohibit employers from asking about criminal histories or doing criminal background checks, but they want to give applicants the chance to get past the application stage. They want to give them the opportunity to answer the question face to face. In this down economy, employers often weed out applications that indicate a criminal history without giving the person a chance to explain what happened. In other words, they advocate for companies to do thorough checks, just later in the process.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

139 comments
jaehn_barbara
jaehn_barbara

In 1994 I was arrested for drugs and served 3 years in prison (it was the "War on Drugs" -- if I was arrested 30 days earlier or now I would receive a sentence of probation). I have not had a permanent job since my release although I have been almost continuosly employed as a IT contractor with all of my contract agencies aware of my backround. And yes, I've had many job offers -- that is until I raise my special circumstances. That's when the job disappears although several times I've remained on-site as a contractor for additional months/years. It seems it OK for me to handle millions of peices of confidential information just not with raises, training opportunities, benefits or promotions. I never get a chance to discuss my circumstances with a permanent employer because not a single one of these companies will admit that the real reason that the position has suddenly disappeared is due to my criminal record. This repetitive experience over the past 15 years has left me feeling nothing but contempt.

JBL1642
JBL1642

Full disclosure is paramount for all organizations so that they can hire those who will be the best fit for their company. As a business owner, I would want to know felony convictions of those whom I am considering for employment, in order to make the most well informed decision that I can, for the well-being of all of my stakeholders. While it may not seem fair, especially to those who truly are trying to make a positive change to their lives and start fresh, it would be even less fair to leave an organization without all of the facts. A business has more than just one person or perspective to take into consideration, in the event that hiring someone with prior convictions turns out to be a poor decision.

bclomptwihm
bclomptwihm

All of these Ban The Box laws need to include a provision that would release the employer from any and all liability for any employee that commits a crime. Otherwise, this is just another stupid law that will be a drag on American Businesses

jasonharri5
jasonharri5

I personally had this experience. I went fishing when I was walking up to my motorcycle, it was gone. Called my wife to come get me, when I did she informed me that the police were looking for me, for a high speed pursuit. After my wife picked me up, we went straight home and reported my bike stolen. When the police arrived to take my statement, I was arrested. The police stated that they didn't believe me. Now I am looking at a possible felony conviction which I have trial for in April. Good luck finding a job if somehow I am found guilty.

mthurlow
mthurlow

So far everyone has missed the actual point of The Box, it's really to tell if people are lying or not. For the gentleman above who had a felony 30 years ago, check the box and describe it. I have hired people who checked the box and have good stories, backed by facts. However the biggest reason for the box is to find people who did commit a crime and didn't check the box. I definitely won't hire those guys or gals. I once had a guy who claimed he missed an interview because his daughter was sick, I did his background check and found out it was because he had a court appearance that morning, along with 3 pages of convictions. I won't pass you over for a conviction, except in cases described in other posts (fraud/bank, etc) however lying makes you ineligible for every job. I would rather hire an honest guy that's made mistakes (who hasn't) than a dishonest guy every day.

JonA_z
JonA_z

Will everyone who agrees with this also agree to tort reform (in conjunction with the ban) that would prevent crime victims (and/or their families) of any crime committed against them by a business's employee (who has a criminal background) from suing the business? I'm all for giving people a second (a third, forth or even a fifth) chance, but this sort of business legislation is just insane. Yes, criminal background info is about protecting a business, but that also means protecting existing employees, vendors, and customers (meaning the public).

Tinman57
Tinman57

So a young man does something stupid like robbing a bank because he lost his job in a bad economy and didn't have any means to feed his family. He gets 20 years in prison and "PAYS" his dept to society, except it don't end there. He's branded with that big X on his back, and because he's been branded he can't find employment. The only recourse for him is going back to criminal activity just to feed himself, or else starve. Is this fair? I don't think so. He did his time, but yet society continues to keep him down, he might as well got life in prison. He did his time, now give him a chance to be a working citizen. [Retired Correctional Officer]

aikimark
aikimark

Michelle Alexander posits in her new book, [b]The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness[/b], that many of the gains of the civil rights movement have been undermined by the mass incarceration of blacks in the war on drugs. Here's a good Fresh Air interview with the author: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/16/145175694/legal-scholar-jim-crow-still-exists-in-america This isn't just a race issue and the discarding of human lives has real costs to our society. When we (society) state that doing time for your crime isn't sufficient, we undermine the very purpose of our courts and penal system. ______________________ For all the talk of "America is a Christian nation" by the conservative right, I see a lot of selectivity in which part of Jesus's messages they choose to follow/ignore. This issue and the strong opinions expressed in reader comments might also be viewed in light of this recent research relating low IQ with conservative positions: http://www.livescience.com/18132-intelligence-social-conservatism-racism.html So, before you progressives/liberals get into shouting matches and flaming wars, consider the IQ of the person with whom you disagree. They might not have the same cognitive capacity as you. They might be operating from a position of fear and mis-/dis-information, especially if they they watch/listen to conservative media sources like Faux Noise.

scandent
scandent

At 23, I made an extremely poor judgement choice and ended up with a felony record that I admit I deserved. I spent time in jail but not a prison comittment. I managed to learn from my mistake, rebound slowly back into the workforce and develop a career where I have pretty much lived the exemplary life since then. Now 30 years later, our company decided to outsource offshore and my 20+ year career was flushed along with that of 370 other people in our location. Now, as I troll through the jobs available in this economy, I find that I am not even considered to be qualified to sort garbage at the local recycling center because EVERY job ad states 'must pass criminal background check'. (I'm serious - even the garbage truck driver). So, along with using a large part of my 401k to pay a law firm to hopefully get the conviction expunged, I am attempting to startup my own business frankly becuse it appears that in todays society the only person who values me as having the potential to contribute positively, is me... Which brings me to the scope of my question: Only a small percentage of former offenders will have the means and/or resources to get convictions removed. If, as a society we deem that 25% of individuals who have any record as being absolutely unacceptable for employment and cut them at the application level; what are they left with to turn to as a means for survival? Homelessness? The support of family? Social programs that they probably also arent qualified for (and we pay for anyway)? It seems the emerging 'background check' policies of this decade, spurred on by the ease with which records can be accessed, are beginning to create a class of ex-offenders, whose only option to survive might eventually only be to return to a life of crime (and then ultimately become wards of the prison system again at our expense). There needs to be some point of forgiveness or at least redemption, or society will only suffer the consequences. Thats all im saying.

Ray Baker
Ray Baker

Side one: To ignore/hide a criminal record is unfair to the [u]law abiding employee[/u] who is applying for the job. Side two: Should the employer hire a criminal who was so inept that he got caught?

NelsonVe
NelsonVe

Personally I feel that we should stop all such background checks after a max of 7 years. If someone got arrested, regardless of the reason and have not re-offended in that time frame they should be left to contribute to society and not be a burden. We all know that the number one way to reduce criminal activity is by providing jobs not more stripes or continued rejections from people who only know, at most, half the truth of any ones issues.

suezew
suezew

As an employer I want to know the person has a criminal record before interviewing. I don't want to find out later in the process. It's wasted my time and the applicants. Let them have a line to explain on the application form. If it's a crime that would prevent employment in that particular industry, why take the time and spend the money for background checks?

trboyd
trboyd

This conversation has spiraled downward in to a confused miasma of civil vs criminal, felony vs. misdemeanor, arrest vs. conviction, even name calling. That's not a conversation. I once hired for a national company that had locations in many states. We had to meet the requirements of the states in which we operated. Our application asked, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" It was up to the interviewer to determine the nature of the conviction, and whether it was relevant to the job. [i]Relevant to the job.[/i] It has already been posted that one wouldn't necessarily get hired to work in finance once convicted of fraud or theft of client's money. That's sensible. Now, go ahead and parse that statement if all you're looking for is an arguement. We would inform the applicant that a criminal background check would be performed; any other convictions not disclosed by the applicant would disqualify for hiring because they falsified the application. Anyone convicted of violence, especially domestic violence, would not be eligible for hire. But I did hire people with drug convictions if there were no repeat convictions. That was my experience.

andrew232006
andrew232006

The employer gets to pick out people based on appearance, how well they got along with their last employer, the firmness of their handshake, their previous jobs or lack thereof, or where they chose to go to school 30 years ago. But not weather I robbed my company, killed someone or burned down the business 10 years ago? Should the arsonist with a nice haircut get preference over those that choose to obey the law their entire lives? If you got a criminal record for smoking pot or defending your family, then put it in the box and the employer gets to decide weather that excludes you from the job. And completing a jail sentence does vindicate a person in my eyes nor is it supposed to. If they did 5 years for smoking pot then they've overpaid their due by 5 years. If they murdered a child and the law determined they are no longer a threat to society, I can and will reserve the right to condemn them.

bobw1776
bobw1776

The whole purpose of creating a society where almost everything is illegal, is to get almost everyone incarcerated or to have a criminal record. This insures that only those wealthy enough to hire the best legal defense, who can "pay off" the police and prosecutors, can have free reign to the best of everything, and to have the potential for gaining unlimited wealth themselves (References: Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin era, etc.). Proposals like this from Ban The Box, would only create a free society where the richest cannot get even richer, while the poor and common can only go to jail (or the Ghulag). America has the highest incarceration rate, highest criminal conviction rate, etc. of any 1st World nation on the planet. Can't the folks at Ban The Box just accept that laws and their enforcement that so shape our nation are there by design, and leave this subject to the "expert" authorities on society shaping and manipulation?

joseph_mcmanus
joseph_mcmanus

I am a LIBERAL Republican, I'm 53 (going on 54 next week) and have NO criminal record of ANY KIND (if you exclude a couple of speeding tickets more than 10 years ago). I personally think that any one who has a CRIMINAL record SHOULD be required to put it ALL down, an employer has the right to know who he/she is hiring BEFORE they wind-up getting ripped-off from an inside job, BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, employers who routinely exclude ALL applicants who have a criminal record for no good reason (such as bank teller/employee, gold or jewelry handler, armored car guard etc.) should be getting criminal records themselves (and I'm talking about the person(s) doing the screening and/or hiring not the corporation). I agree with fullerwp above, what really needs to be "BANNED" is the use of your credit score for all those things that it was NOT originally intended for (Job Applications, auto/home/life insurance, renting a home or apartment, ETC.) that's where the criminality really lies! Not only Congress but ALL 50 of the State Legislative bodies need to get their stuff straight and stop this RAPING of the American people by using this totally arbitrary numerical value judgement of your life by some unknown unheard-of pencil pusher who doesn't know you or the circumstances of your life from a hole in the wall (and who doesn't give a flying rats arse either) or even worse some computer algorithm that was solely written to increase the profit margins of the company/persons involved! I have not found it hard to keep my nose clean all these years, and I have no time for those people who say that it can't be done and can't do likewise. If in the future I should acquire such situation, I would put down the required disclosure info along with the particulars and take my chances, BUT if the person doing the screening/hiring discriminates against me for NO GOOD REASON, THEN, I hope they have a real good group of lawyers, because I will own that company when I'm through with them and that/those person/people will need to get their resumes updated with their records and reason/s for termination very quickly, and you can take that to the bank! Good luck and best wishes in the new year and be well.

bobmak
bobmak

It???s obvious that fullerwp and bpate have never run a business or been responsible for hiring or managing personnel. I agree with you Mark JB! Also, their points of view may be the result of 50 plus years of socialist brainwashing of our educational system. ???Let???s all be touchy feely???. ???Let???s not be judgmental???. ???The government and special interest groups will look out for us???. The result?----Feminized, spineless sheep! Devoid of any sense of business principles, basic economics or the government???s role and individual rights as defined by the United States Constitution!

fgcroswait
fgcroswait

This is a waste of time and money! If an employer has any question about your background, they just Google you! I'm surprised an internet search doesn't show the number of bowel movements you have in the month of January.

theboysofo
theboysofo

What society are we living in when an employer is refused the right to ask a pointed question that lends evidence of a persons past moral or ethical values? If I made a bad decision in the past it will be my anchor I will have to carry. Every action we perform has its ownership and it's consequences If you were placing your child in daycare would you not want to know if an employee is a pedophile? Would you want to unknowingly hire a repeated sex offender? As an employer I have the right to ask questions that will protect my company and most of all my employees and you, my customer.

RNR1995
RNR1995

Every situation is different But employers need to know You wouldn't hire a convicted pedophile for a day care center would you? But that shouldn't hold them back from other employment Laws should make common sense, unfortunately too many regulations kill small business

jonrosen
jonrosen

More than half the problem, as noted a bit elsewhere in the threads, is that the legal/judicial system needs to be fixed as to just what are crimes/felonies/etc... I personally cry foul to being able to be sued for fighting back in my own home. I think it's f'ing idiotic that someone caught smoking pot in their home, goes to jail for longer than someone committing rape. Lets not even talk about the ridiculous ease of being labeled a pedophile if you do ANYTHING ANY parent doesn't like within sight/earshot of a parent. (I'm surprised just a guy adjusting himself within a mile of a school hasn't come up yet) Do I fully agree with the whole background/driving/etc checks? No. Do they serve a purpose on the whole? Arguably yes. Is the bulk of it simply idiotic and asinine crap that gets in the way of people being productive? Oh hell yes.

neil.postlethwaite
neil.postlethwaite

Guessing it would be trumped by Megan's Law - more barking mad legislation, but from the other side of the fence. Or you'll get Paedo's galore applying for jobs down your local school.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Every one of us breaks at least one law almost every day. About the only ones who don't are infants in cribs and people in intensive care. In fact, I will guarrantee that every HR person at work today has committed at least one infraction on the way there. When everyone is a criminal, legal barriers are ignored. Leaving you morality and ethics to decide how to live your life. Considering how often ethics are ignored, and our megashifts in morality nowadays; it's a wonder our society is even functioning.

cory.schultze
cory.schultze

Sure. Let's have all the paedophiles working in our schools, the thieves in our banks, the murderers in our security jobs and hackers in IT admin. While we're at it, what's to stop a layabout from being a career advisor, or your average waster in stocks and shares. Hell, now we're on the subject of appropriate, let's have anyone with AIDS working in surgery, paraplegics as our fire-fighters, and the armless in our call centres. Got a nut allergy? The Snickers factory has a job with your name on it! Have Asthma? The sawmills need someone like you! Bad back? Any warehouse is the perfect choice for an uplifting career! Get real. These restrictions are in place to protect the employee, the employer, and the public. It sounds like these human rights liberalist-types are pushing it again. Bring back the death sentence and make prison a place of discomfort again. You're there to be punished, not pampered.

Htalk
Htalk

At first glance it would seem like a bad idea to not ask about past misdeeds but given the high rate of legal failure in this country (in the form of framing, trumped charges, ambiguous convictions, false arrests, legal abuse, and laws structured around racism & classism) it makes sense to stop requiring this on job applications. If the validity of peoples' records are so frequently unreliable or misleading, why trust these documents anymore? And anyway, serving a sentence should result in a recognized redemption.

John Loveall
John Loveall

I have first-hand experience with the Check the Box. After 11 years of US Naval service and 10 more as a contractor for the Department of Defense with a secret clearance. I have not been able to secure work in the IT Industry since 2008. I believe I have a pretty impressive resume with several lead positions ranging from Lead Exchange Admin, Senior Engineer, College Instructor, Project Manager for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and then in my pinnacle position was where I was sought out to be the Program Manager for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information (NNPI) Systems. I only have myself to blame, I made compromises and struggled with a substance abuse problem. I now have 4 felonies; I committed 3 counts of Uttering and Publishing and 1 count of Larceny to feed my addiction. I have been sober over 14 months and have served my sentence as handed out by the court system. I am willing to do Tier 1 support to get my foot in the door again; I will have my PMP and MCITP by February. I completely understand the risks involved in hiring a felon and we know that in the IT world you are giving the Keys to the Castle when you give admin privileges to someone. While a job is Not a right either is a life sentence of drawing on the Human Support service after we have served our sentence handed out by the judge.

paulfx1
paulfx1

While I am not condoning the war on drugs in the increasingly competitive job market place criminal records are just one more way to cull the herd. People are going to use whatever they can in order to gain advantage. They got your name and number. Look on the bright side, at least you've found something external to blame your fate on.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Thus I'm curious how many locks your key opens. Do you want to know about health issues as well? What about age, gender and physical disability? According to what you've laid out it wouldn't be fair to your stakeholders to hire someone who might be pregnant. That would impact the bottom line when she took maternity leave, right?

Tinman57
Tinman57

jasonharri5, yeah, it's called living in a police state. Welcome comrade.....

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

This is about eliminating a criminal record as a primary discriminator during the hiring process and allowing former convicts to be considered based on their job qualifications. Nobody with is advocating allowing pedophiles to work in child care centers or allowing people convicted of fraud or embezzlement to work in financial institutions. But why shouldn't those people who have served their time be allowed to be considered for employment in unrelated fields [u]without[/u] the spectre of their past conduct hanging over their heads?

scandent
scandent

So you only think successful criminals that dont get caught should have jobs?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Dude, did you spend much time in Stalinist USSR? Care to expand on how the US resembles it? Care to at least acknowledge that in the US it's legal (indeed, protected) to make comparisons like that one?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If you were so foolish as to tweet everything you do...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But they probably won't get hired. I don't know of any states that don't require a mandatory criminal records check for all applicants to jobs in public schools. Most states with Megan's law also require this check for anybody wanting a job working with children.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

However I'm not sure we are all criminals. I would even go so far as to say a majority of folks convicted of a crime, having served their punishment are not "criminals". A deputy once told me that he could pull me over anytime, anywhere. I said, "not w/o probable cause!" His response? "Your tire ever hit the yellow line? That's probable cause..." Don't even get me started on how inviolate you think you are in your home or on your front porch... Hence we can be convicted of crimes w/o being criminals...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

We allow senseless posts on public forums...

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

And God Speed... I appreciate you sharing your story. Maybe one day the punishment can end at the prison door...

JamesRL
JamesRL

He never said anything about disclosure of anything except a criminal record. You opened that door.

JBL1642
JBL1642

Full disclosure, as it pertains to felony convictions is the topic that I was referencing, and the topic of this particular post. The details that you bring up, while important issues in their own rite, are not part of ban the box for criminal convictions. At least, to my knowledge, pregnancy is not currently considered to be a crime..

JamesRL
JamesRL

I understand the need to eliminate discrimination where a criminal past isn't relevant. But why go through the process with a candidate that you can't hire? If I am hiring, I look to find a reasonable number of candidates to interview. Minimum of two, maximum five, depending on circumstances. If I don't screen out people who I can't hire because the job requires a clean criminal record, then I will have to interview candidates I can't hire, then go through the process again to get "enough" candidates to interview. You can see how this would make the hiring process challenging for both the manager and the qualified candidates.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Depending on your jurisdiction, not everything you do that is against the law is "criminal" nor would it show up on most criminal background checks. Speeding, littering etc., are against the law, but not "crimes" in that they do not contravene the criminal code (again according to the definitions in most places). I've committed a few offenses, I have had some speeding tickets in the past.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

To paraphrase Lincoln 'you can't please everyone all of the time.' It's not that I don't have empathy for your personal (and valid) circumstance, but the 'big picture' is what I thought we were discussing.

JamesRL
JamesRL

For certain positions, ANY criminal record means I cannot hire the person. So why then do I have to wait until the interview process to reject the person. Why interview them in the first place? This isn't always about "fair".

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

To do otherwise is prejudicial in this case. It is worth the extra effort because some things like a presumption of innocence or the ideal that a person should be judged on specific merit have value. I personally will go the extra mile to insure that at least in my corner of the world folks get a fair shake. Unfortunately that is not a universal sentiment thus I feel it should be part of the social contract we call 'law'.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Interstate speed limits were typically 65 mph. The limit was increased to 70mph last year. Speeding is not defined as a criminal act. Reckless driving is a criminal class 1 misdemeanor. One example is defined as traveling 20 miles over the speed limit which would be 90mph where 70 is the posted limit. Except that VA states anything over 80 mph is reckless driving. Ta Da, criminal conviction for going 11 mph over a posted speed limit!

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Where the law is created, enforced and adjudicated by human beings. We Americans for all our potential are sometimes petty and irrational. Thus I am afraid that the line may be clear in theory but in practical terms it is only as perfect as those who create/enforce it... Good to know there is a perfect system somewhere... P.S. the deputy in question is my brother. We also have a judge and a lawyer in the family ... :)

JamesRL
JamesRL

In Canada, the line is clear. Criminal code violations are crimes. Provincial issues like Highway Traffic Act violations, or civil matters like lawsuits or non payment of child custody are "Not crimes", no matter how serious the penalty. They are still breaking the law, but they won't show up on your criminal record. I think what your deputy is referring to is the fact that if an officer pulls you over for a minor infraction, it often opens the door for investigation of other issues. If he pulls you over for your wheel over the solid line, he can check your breath for alcohol, check for your seatbelt, glance in the backseat etc. So going back to the beginning of the this sub thread, I think everyone breaks a law on occasion, but not everyone is a criminal.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

are infractions (pay a fine) but you can easily move into criminal (serve some time) based on details. Its the little things that get you...

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