Applying for a job can be an arduous task these days. It can be made more stressful for job applicants with criminal records. Research affirms that a conviction record reduces the likelihood of a job callback or offer by nearly 50%, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). It also can be stressful for employers, who want to be fair, want to follow the law, but also want to make the best hires for their open job positions.
More and more, state and local governments are passing “ban the box” laws that prohibit hiring discrimination against applicants with criminal records. Currently, 36 states and the District of Columbia ban the box. Over 150 cities and counties nationwide are involved in the ban-the-box movement. Former President Obama even utilized the initiative during his Presidency by administering “ban the box” for the hiring process for federal jobs.
In June 2018 Kansas City, Missouri, and Spokane, Washington, began enforcing laws surrounding ban-the-box.
In Kansas City, starting June 9, employers with six or more employees may only inquire about an applicant’s criminal background once the candidate has been vetted and determined to be qualified for the position. The law does not apply to employers who cannot consider candidates with criminal backgrounds for legal reasons. An employer who violates the new city ordinance is subject to loss of their business license, fines totaling $500, and wait for it, imprisonment.
Spokane, Washington set in place similar guidelines on June 14, 2018, for all private employers. Among the new guidelines:
- Employers are prohibited from advertising job opportunities that may exclude candidates with criminal backgrounds
- Employers cannot cancel an interview with a candidate if they do learn in advance of a past criminal record
Failing to comply with these new laws could result in penalties of $261 per candidate. As of January 2019, penalties are being assessed.
Here are some things to keep in mind when researching “ban the box” regulations in the areas where your business operates:
- Understand the rules for the areas where your operations are located
- Do not use previously standard job applications with a criminal history box if your state, county, or city has implemented “ban the box.” Keep all applications for at least three years to demonstrate your company’s use of applications that do not contain the criminal history box.
- Know when it is permissible for you to inquire about criminal history. Depending on the jurisdiction, it can vary from asking after an initial screening, to inquiring after the first interview, to waiting until a conditional employment offer has been made.
- Post a notice informing both your potential employees and current ones of your compliance with “ban the box” rules. Reflect it in job postings
- To make sure your WOTC application process is in compliance with the law, including compliance with “ban the box” rules, consider hiring a third party with the right expertise in helping companies process WOTC applications so as not to run afoul of the law
Hiring people with criminal records can provide someone with an important second chance in life, and can be a boon for your business by hiring a well-qualified employee and receiving government tax credits that can lower your tax bill.
Find more information about “ban the box” regulations across the U.S on the NELP org website.
Many “ban the box” policies have incorporated 2012 guidelines issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can view those guidelines on the EEOC website.