A grassroots movement to eliminate questions about a job candidate’s criminal history during the early stages of hiring may be going mainstream sooner than many people expected. A group of bipartisan federal legislators this month introduced a bill to “ban the box” on federal job applications. This would allow all candidates, including ex-offenders, to be considered for jobs before needing to disclose a criminal record.
 A Fair Chance For All?

This Baltimore Sun article reports the bill, called the Fair Chance Act, “would prohibit federal agencies and contractors from asking applicants about criminal history until after making a conditional offer of employment. The bill makes exceptions for positions in which criminal background checks are required by law and “sensitive positions,” such as those dealing with classified information.”

Backers of the bill say the vast majority of people who have to check a box indicating they have a criminal record, have never actually been to prison but that having to check a box like that is akin to carrying a life sentence.


Spearheaded by All of Us or None, Ban The Box aims to eliminate questions about criminal convictions from job applications. Ban The Box advocates claim that asking questions about criminal convictions is discriminatory. The theory is that instead of being passed over right away because they checked ‘yes’ to a question about being convicted of a crime, their qualifications, education and references will be viewed equally with that of people who check ‘no.’ This article says Ban The Box is helping ex-cons enter the workforce.

Is Ban The Box Working?

Ban The Box is supposed to eliminate structural discrimination, or the practice of denying rights or opportunities to members of minority groups through norms, behaviors and policies within institutions.

Advocates argue structural discrimination exists when employers don’t allow applicants to reach the next step in the employment process (whatever that may be) because they checked ‘yes’ to a question about previous criminal convictions. Since the question is included on nearly every job application (except those states with Ban The Box laws) some people argue that
structural discrimination is pervasive. They also say that it disproportionately affects some minorities because African Americans and Latinos/Hispanics are convicted of crimes at higher rates than other races.

Eighteen states have already passed a Ban the Box law, says the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Seven states have passed laws prohibiting the practice by private employers, too. Considering that NELP estimates 70 million Americans – or one in four adults – have a criminal record that may show up in a background check, it’s a movement with far-reaching impact.

Generally speaking, background screening industry insiders say that the Ban the Box movement will continue to grow, and the evolution of it moving into the Federal arena was expected.

What You Need to Know

At this point, here’s some basic information about Ban the Box that everyone – employers and applicants – should know:

• Employers in states, counties and municipalities that have adopted ‘Ban the Box’ can not, by law, ask applicants to divulge if they have a criminal history on a job application

• EEOC guidance recommends all employers follow this procedure, whether or not ‘Ban the Box’ has passed in their jurisdiction

• Regardless of ‘Ban the Box’ law, some regulated industries still require criminal history information from the outset of the application process

• Other compliance laws, like getting an applicant’s written signature to consent to a background check, are not affected by ‘Ban the Box’ laws.

What it comes down to is that checking a box on application that indicates you have a criminal record is becoming increasingly archaic with the types of background checks that are available today. When you partner with a nationally-accredited screening agency like Active Screening, you’re assured that the Consumer Reporting Agency is taking all of the necessary steps to uncover the information that is important to employers to make an informed choice about a job candidate.

Do you have questions for us about how Ban The Box laws may affect your hiring policies? What about if you’re a contractor for the federal government? We’d love to hear from you and help find out answers to some of your questions. Leave your thoughts below!

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