job applicants


Hiring? Be aware that with the new year, several new “Ban the Box” laws are going into effect:

There are no doubt more recent initiatives recently passed or pending – this issue seems to have reached critical mass. These state and local HR ordinances are part of a trend that employment law attorney David Baron talks about in his article Employment Laws Go Local — The Rise of Municipal and State Lawmaking. Ban The Box is one example, but think minimum wage, sick pay, and other HR issues. He describes the problem – and he also offers some recommendations to employers for managing these laws at the end of his article:

“The country is rapidly moving toward a human resources professional’s worst nightmare — local governments implementing employment laws on a patchwork basis with differing rules based on city limits and state lines. Imagine the difficulty in implementing a different employment application or sick pay plan depending upon the jurisdiction. This is no longer a minor inconvenience, and local legislation is likely to get worse in the near future. This article will outline the main areas of state and city legislation and the recent laws that warrant the most attention.”

Ban the Box Toolkit

Ban the Box, defined:  First, a quick review of what “Ban the Box” is, for any that may be unaware. It’s a growing movement to give job applicants with a criminal record a fair chance when applying for jobs. The “box” refers to the ubiquitous little checkbox asking about criminal history that has been – until recently – a standard question on employment applications. Ban the Box ordinances do not prevent employers from background checks; rather, they move the issue to later in the hiring process so that an applicant has more of a fair chance to promote their qualifications and make a favorable impression. It’s not a small issue. Civil rights advocates say that there are an estimated 70 million U.S. adults with prior arrests or convictions.

Ban the Box – status of legislation: The National Employment Law Project has been very active in this issue. They issued a recent update on the current state of the laws: Ban the Box: U.S. Cities, Counties, and States Adopt Fair Hiring Policies:

“There are a total of 24 states representing nearly every region of the country that have adopted the policies  …  Nine states—Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have removed the conviction history question on job applications for private employers, which advocates embrace as the next step in the evolution of these policies.”

In addition, NELP says that many large employers have “banned the box” from initial applications, among them: Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Koch Industries, Starbucks, Facebook, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Some employment law experts say that large, multi-state employers should probably adopt the practice since it is becoming pervasive. The only problem is that there are a hodgepodge of laws with different requirements.

You can check on the status of your state / local Ban the Box ordinances via this map or see this guide: Ban the Box – U.S. Cities, Counties, and States Adopt Fair-Chance an in-depth guide by Michelle Natividad Rodriguez and Beth Avery of the National Employment Law Project. It includes:

  • List of All Ban-the-Box & Fair-Chance Laws and Policies by State
  • Ban-the-Box & Fair-Chance States
  • Table Summarizing Ban-the-Box & Fair-Chance States
  • Private-Employer Laws
  • Local Ban-the-Box & Fair-Chance Laws and Policies
  • Table Summarizing Ban-the-Box & Fair-Chance Laws and Policies

Fair Chance – Ban the Box Toolkit (PDF) – Opening Job Opportunities for People with Records
Michelle Natividad Rodriguez & Anastasia Christman, National Employment Law Project

Fact Sheet: “Ban the Box” is a Fair Chance For Workers With Records
Michelle Natividad Rodriguez, National Employment Law Project

“Removing questions about conviction history from job applications is a simple policy change that eases hiring barriers and creates a fair chance to compete for jobs. Known as “ban the box,” this change allows employers to judge applicants on their qualifications first, without the stigma of a record.

The most effective policies don’t just remove the “box”; they ensure that conviction information is used fairly. Employers should make individualized assessments instead of blanket exclusions and consider the age of the offense and its relevance to the job. Candidates should be given an opportunity to review background-check results.”

Best Practices and Model Fair-Chance Policies
Michelle Natividad Rodriguez, National Employment Law Project

“As you craft a fair chance policy, including “ban the box,” here are the top ten principles to follow. These have been distilled from our work with jurisdictions across the country and are applicable to any state or region. We have also included the following model policies and laws: a local administrative memo, a local resolution, a local ordinance, a state executive order, and state legislation.”

News & commentary on Ban the Box


Request a Quote