“Ban the Box” is an evolving movement spreading throughout the country. The purpose of this national reform campaign is to persuade employers to remove from their hiring applications questions about a candidate’s prior criminal offenses to avoid immediate disqualification from consideration for employment.
On August 11, 2014, New Jersey became the sixth state to join the “Ban the Box” movement. Governor Chris Christie signed “The Opportunity to Compete Act.” Effective March 1, 2015, this law will prohibit employers from making any inquiry regarding criminal history until after the initial interview.
The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has strengthened its guidelines on discrimination over the past few years. The EEOC has begun prosecuting employers that do not give candidates what they deem as an “equal opportunity for employment” and feel that candidates should not be evaluated on past unrelated offenses but instead based on their current skills and work experience. This reform is designed to allow a qualified ex-offender an opportunity to prove their qualifications by forcing employers to postpone inquiries regarding criminal records until later in the hiring process, such as after a conditional job offer has been extended.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) estimates that roughly one in four Americans, approximately 65 million people, could ultimately benefit from this change. Employers too can benefit by improving their hiring process and adopting best practices to avoid allegations of employment discrimination. To date, twelve states and dozens of cities have supported a Ban the Box policy.
“Ban the Box” does not require employers to hire candidates with a criminal conviction nor is it intended to hide a candidate’s criminal background. Background checks may still be conducted as part of a company’s hiring process, just not in the initial application phase.