If you have never heard of “Ban the Box,” you aren’t alone. If you hire people (or own a business that does), however, you want to familiarize yourself with this particular movement.
Certain principles of Ban the Box are already in use as employment law in many portions of the USA. Familiarizing yourself with these changes can help you discover a diamond in the rough and avoid a costly lawsuit.
Take as an example the story of Chris. Several years ago, a mutual friend introduced me to Chris. Chris was then serving on the board (as a founding member) of an organization which was incubating a restaurant concept and hosting successful pop-up dinners in our city. In the coming years, this restaurant concept would secure a brick and mortar location, and Chris would eventually become CEO of a thriving and accomplished non-profit.
The caveat? Chris did seven years in prison on attempted murder charges that were pleaded down to two counts each of aggravated assault and aggravated robbery. That restaurant concept centered around culinary training for recently released juvenile offenders, which his non-profit expands into training in other industries.
The Ban the Box campaign aims to remove the checkbox on job applications that inform employers if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. The hope is that this will give these applicants a better chance at securing an interview, which may prove them worthy of a position despite their legal history. While there are certainly individuals in this category that you would not want to hire, there are also people like Chris, many struggling to find suitable employment because of juvenile charges or non-violent offenses, who haven’t since reoffended.
As this initiative gains support, more and more states and cities are signing laws to require complimentary hiring practices. The requirements vary by location, so it is wise to review any “fair-chance” ordinances that may exist in your region.
This is probably the most important thing for employers to know: Ban the Box related laws are being enacted and modified regularly, and those in place in Seattle, for example, are different from those in Spokane.
It is also important to keep in mind that these laws do not necessarily outlaw background checks. You may have to review when and how you can perform criminal background checks, but they are typically allowed at some point in the hiring process. And many background check services can exclude criminal checks from their scope if such action is required in your region.
Finally, please note that no government requires employers to hire anyone. These laws do not exist to force you to hire past-offenders. The point is to introduce you to candidates that may be a fantastic fit for your opening though there may be infractions in their past, which you might be willing to overlook for a guy like Chris.
You alone can decide who you will welcome into your company. Hopefully, this article has helped familiarize you with the concepts surrounding Ban the Box, to the degree that you can navigate the constantly changing portion of employment law.
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