Tech & Work

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.


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.

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