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The “Ban the Box” Bill – Should Employers Ask if You Have a Criminal Background? [POLL]

 Flikr user goblinbox (queen of ad hoc bento)
Flikr user goblinbox (queen of ad hoc bento)

Of course you’re wondering what “ban the box” is, and before your mind takes you to places it shouldn’t be going, let me give you the “Readers’ Digest” version of what it is.

On most job applications, there’s a box you’re asked to check if you have a criminal record.

Once you check “yes”, there’s a good chance a prospective employer won’t look past that and deny you employment right then and there.

The legislation would theoretically ban asking the question on a job application, thereby enlarging the pool of applicants for any given position. The employer would then have the ability to pick and choose from the pool of applicants, and decide which of them they want once they pass a background check.

The reason this was introduced was due to the fact that many college grads may have had minor criminal infractions on their records that may have prevented them from applying for jobs for which they might otherwise be qualified.

According to this:

Advocates say studies show evidence of businesses that toss out applications immediately when they see someone marked yes. The measure would still allow employers to ask about a person’s criminal history, but only once a conditional offer is made.

Furthermore, according to this report,

Right now, applicants for most public and private jobs must indicate if they have been convicted of a first- to fourth-degree crime in the past 10 years, or any disorderly person’s offense in the past five years.

The bill seeks to eliminate those notifications until at least after a conditional offer of employment is made to the applicant, when a full background check could apply. The bill also mandates that any subsequent withdrawal of the offer must be accompanied by a form detailing the reasons.

Exceptions would be mandated, however, for more serious crimes. Under the bill, employers may at any time in the employment process consider and be notified of convictions for murder, attempted murder, arson-related crimes, an offense requiring sex offender registry, or terrorism-related offenses.

According to the act, six states and more than 40 cities have ban-the-box legislation in some form, including Massachusetts, Connecticut and Colorado. Those laws can apply to either public or private employers, or both. It turns out the Senate will schedule a hearing on the legislation tomorrow.

In my previous post I said leave the box in place and let the prospective employer decide right then and there as to the candidate’s fitness, despite his or her “criminal past.”

Here’s what I don’t understand. You have to figure that prospective employees can always lie on their applications. Either way, if you’re a candidate for a given job having all the necessary qualifications, your employer, as a matter of course, is going to do a background check.

So why bother asking the question in the first place, if the “criminal record” is going to show up anyway? At that point, the prospective employer either makes the decision not to go any further in the hiring process or otherwise ask the candidate what the circumstances of the “crime” were!

Ban it and be done with it!

Should there be a law banning the box on an employment application asking about an applicant’s criminal record?

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