“Ban the box” policies exist to discourage employers from making hiring judgment calls based on stigma alone. The idea is for a candidate’s qualifications to be reviewed and considered before conviction/arrest history questions and screenings make their way into the process.
Given that around one-third of Americans have some criminal history, the question “have you ever been arrested for a crime?” would leave a lot of qualified workers fighting the past their entire lives. “Ban the box” gets its name from application questions such as this, which require candidates to check yes or no, often unable to explain their case before being disqualified from further consideration.
These policies raise the probability of public employment for those with convictions by four percentage points (30%).
Ban the Box by State
Certain states are restricted, by law, from asking probing criminal history questions on a job application. Here is an outline of the employer “ban the box” observance requirements by the state as of 2021:
Alabama: No law
Alaska: No law
Arizona: No law
Arkansas: No law
California: Employers with 5 or more employees (some variation depending on the city)
Colorado: All employers
Connecticut: All employers (also in effect for sure contractor hires)
Delaware: No law
Florida: No law
Georgia: All employers
Hawaii: All private employers
Idaho: No law
Illinois: Private employers with 15 or more employees (some variation depending on the city)
Indiana: No law (except some contractor hires)
Iowa: No law (some variation depending on the city)
Kansas: No law
Kentucky: No law (except some contractor hires)
Louisiana: No law
Maine: All employers
Maryland: No law (some variation depending on the city)
Massachusetts: All private employers (also in effect for sure contractor hires)
Michigan: All employers with 15 or more employees (some variation depending on the city)
Minnesota: All private employers
Mississippi: No law
Missouri: No law (some variation depending on the city)
Montana: No law
Nebraska: No law
Nevada: No law
New Hampshire: No law
New Jersey: Employers with 15 or more employees over 20 calendar weeks
New Mexico: All private employers
New York: No law (some variation depending on the city)
North Carolina: No law
North Dakota: No law
Ohio: No law
Oklahoma: No law
Oregon: All private employers (some variation depending on the city)
Pennsylvania: No law (some variation depending on the city)
Rhode Island: Employers with 4 or more employees
South Carolina: No law
South Dakota: No law
Tennessee: No law
Texas: No law (some variation depending on the city)
Utah: No law
Vermont: All private employers
Virginia: No law
Washington: All private employers (some variation depending on the city)
West Virginia: No law
Wisconsin: No law (except some contractor hires)
Wyoming: No law
Ironically, the federal government was one of the last to this dance. Until April of 2019, the Fair Chance Act was reported to the Senate. The purpose of this legislation, using its own words, is to:
“prohibit Federal agencies and Federal contractors from requesting that an applicant for employment disclose criminal history record information before the applicant has received a conditional offer, and for other purposes.”
The Fair Chance Act enforces “ban the box” policies within federal agencies and federally-contracted organizations.
What Are the Effects of these Policies?
According to a Harvard publication, these bans have increased employment in high-crime areas by as much as 4 percent. It is an influential figure when scaled and applied to the whole nation.
It has also been noted that many employers have responded to such bans by raising experience requirements which have negatively impacted some. There is also a possibility that women, who are less likely to be convicted of crimes, may generally be negatively affected by these policies. However, this claim is still under study.
While some research does not support the efficacy of “ban the box” policies, they are generally favored, backed by law in many states and federal workplace environments. It seems as though the winds are blowing more in the direction of implementation than withdrawal when it comes to “ban the box” practices.
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