Yesterday, June 10, 2015, the National Employment Law Project and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called on President Obama to â€śBan the Boxâ€ť and give everyone a fair chance to get a job by pushing background checks to later in the hiring process and banning the check-box on job applications asking if a person has a criminal record. That was the latest step in the â€śBan the Boxâ€ť campaign that on June 1 saw Ohio become the 17th state to â€śBan the Boxâ€ť, and expects to see Oregon join them soon.
An estimated 68 million Americans have a criminal record, about one in four and more than the total population of France. On top of that, only around half of the FBIâ€™s records are up-to-date, meaning an arrest without a conviction can still negatively impact employment chances due to an incorrect record. Not only do 92% of employers run background checks, but more than 800 occupations ban felons via the law or licensing rules. Furthermore, only 40% of employers interviewed said they would â€śdefinitelyâ€ť or â€śprobablyâ€ť hire someone with a criminal record. Furthermore, the inability of ex-felons and formerly imprisoned Americans to get a job is costing the economy an estimated $57 to $65 billion per year in lost output.
The â€śBan the Boxâ€ť campaignâ€™s purpose is to give people with criminal records a fair chance at getting a job. By eliminating background checks until later in the process, every person would have the chance to demonstrate their qualification without the shadow of a criminal record hanging over them. This can be a serious help to people with criminal records as 76% of hiring discrimination takes place when reviewing a job application.
The campaign took its first major step back in 1998 when Hawaii became the first state to pass a â€śBan the Boxâ€ť law. However, the term â€śBan the Boxâ€ť wasnâ€™t coined until All of Us or None started using it in the early 2000s. Since then, â€śBan the Boxâ€ť has taken off, with four states passing â€śBan the Boxâ€ť laws already in 2015. While most statesâ€™ “Ban the Box” laws only apply to public employers, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, along with cities like Baltimore, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have extended the laws to private employers.
These policies have been effective as well. After Minneapolis â€śBanned the Boxâ€ť over half of applicants with convictions were hired, 10% of the people hired by the City of Atlanta between March and October of 2013 had records, and the number of people in Durham County, North Carolina with criminal records that were recommended for hire nearly tripled in the two years since they â€śBanned the Boxâ€ť. Employers donâ€™t regret these decisions either as a study by Evolv found that employees with criminal records end up being 1% to 1.5% more productive than those without criminal records.
There are many ways for people who want to help â€śBan the Boxâ€ť to get involved. The National Employment Law Project has plenty of information on the campaign as well as campaign strategies, model policies, and much more. People can also visit the â€śBan the Boxâ€ť campaign website to take the pledge, get information on the campaign, and find tools for a successful campaign. Similarly, All of Us or None has their own toolkit for people to use on their campaign as they try to make Ohio the 17th state out of 50 to â€śBan the Boxâ€ť.
In the interest of both strengthening the economy and giving more qualified individuals a fair chance at getting jobs, we here at Workplace Fairness hope to see â€śBan the Boxâ€ť continue to thrive.
About the Author: The authorâ€™s name is Erik Idoni. Erik Idoni is a student at the George Mason University School of Law and an intern at Workplace Fairness.