Ban the Box

Is it time to change your employment application?

The Ban the Box movement has been gaining momentum across the county in recent months as more states, counties and local municipalities enact their own versions of the reform that is intended to make it easier for individuals with criminal records to re-enter the job market. HR One has put together the following guide to the Ban the Box movement and what it means for you:

Job Application

What is “Ban the Box?”

Ban the Box refers to an effort by groups to remove the section on most employment applications that asks an applicant if they’ve ever plead guilty to or been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor. The application may ask for details of the conviction including the jurisdiction and nature of the event and what rehabilitation has been completed. In some states, including New York, businesses are already prohibited from refusing to hire someone based solely on a criminal record- unless the offense is related to job duties or could create security/safety issues.

Proponents of Ban the Box want to take that one step further- they claim that employers use this information to screen out candidates with a conviction on their record, regardless of time served or the nature of the conviction as it relates to the position for which they are applying.  As a results, the advocates say, it is difficult for people with a conviction on their records to find employment and reenter the workforce which in turn contributes to reoffending and undermines the concept of a person having already paid their debt to society.

Ban the Box regulations would remove the question from job applications and only allow an employer to ask about a criminal record once a conditional offer of employment is made (and would only allow the employer to rescind the offer if a criminal offense was related to the duties of the job). For employers, this would involve an administrative change to the employment application and potentially changes the interview process. It could also extend the amount of time it takes to fill an open position, particularly if a conditional offer of employment needs to be withdrawn and the application process started over again.

Currently the following municipalities in New York have adopted some form of a Ban the Box measure, though proponents are continually making the push to adopt a state-wide version:

Buffalo- Applies to city agencies (with certain exceptions), businesses located in the city, and businesses acting as a vendor providing services to the city with fifteen (15) or more employees. Prohibits applicable organizations from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history during the application process.

New York City- Applies only to city agencies (with certain exceptions). Prohibits agencies from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history during the application process.

Rochester- Applies to city agencies (with certain exceptions), businesses located in the city, and businesses acting as a vendor providing services to the city. Employers with fewer than four (4) employees are exempt. Prohibits applicable organizations from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history during the application process.

Syracuse- Applies to city agencies (with certain exceptions), and businesses acting as a vendor providing services to the city. Prohibits applicable organizations from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history during the application process.

 Ulster County- Applies only to county agencies. Removes inquiries about criminal records from the employment application (with certain exceptions).

Yonkers- Removes inquiries about criminal records from the county employment application.

The descriptions above are intended to provide a summary of each municipalities’ regulation and not a comprehensive review- for details and specific policies contact the municipality directly.

In addition to these measures some companies have voluntarily changed their own internal employment application and interview practices (in some cases to comply with Ban the Box regulations in one or more of their markets, such as Target, which eliminated the section from their application nationally after Minnesota passed a statewide law (Target Corporation is headquartered in Minneapolis)).

What’s next for the “Ban the Box” movement?

Proponents of this type of regulation are likely to continue to push for ban the box measures at the state and local level where they’ve had the most success. Employers that have contracts with municipal governments should pay close attention to the regulations and guidance from the agencies governing those contracts.

How can we comply with Ban the Box regulations as an employer?

If your organization is subject to these regulations HR One has created an employment application that removes the criminal record inquiries, which HR One clients can find in the Recruiting & Interviewing section under the Forms section of the members-only portion of our website.

HR One also offers customized training seminars in interviewing and hiring best practices and is available to conduct these onsite at your business location.