Ban-the-box Laws: What You Need to Know Before You Hire

The specifics of ban-the-box laws vary by state. Learn how these laws affect your hiring practices as they are passed and developed.

What are Ban-the-box Laws?

Legislation is changing the way that companies hire their employees. “Ban-the-box” laws, also called “fair chance” laws, remove the checkbox that asks if an applicant has prior criminal convictions.

This change was born in 1998, when Hawaii introduced a state-wide ban-the-box law. These laws give applicants the chance to show their qualifications for a position before their criminal record is added to the conversation. In theory, this gives a better platform for applicants to win jobs despite a previous conviction.

To date, over 150 cities and counties have adopted these policies across 25 states. While there are fewer examples of its implementation in the western US, the geographical spread of ban-the-box laws is wide. That being said, its iterations are as varied as its geography. This map breaks down the laws state by state and shows each city, county and state’s regulations of the ban-the-box law.

And while these laws can prove beneficial for job seekers with a criminal record, it also creates a tough line for employers to tread.

Dangerous Assumptions and Misinformation

These policies are making employers take a hard look at the way they hire employees. An experiment conducted through the University of Michigan showed an increased disparity in racial discrimination after ban-the-box laws were passed in New Jersey and New York City. 15,000 invented applications were sent to companies in both of these zones before and after the laws were passed. The applications were sent in black/white racial pairs, and before the ban-the-box laws, white applicants were 7 percent more likely to be called back.

After the ban-the-box law, it was 45 percent.

With criminal record left off the application, it appeared that some employers were relying on their assumptions and stereotypes rather than a person’s qualifications or references. As the ban-the-box laws continue to develop and grow, employers will be pressed to avoid this discrimination.

Know How to Avoid Unintentional Bias

This study can be used as a cautionary tale; most employers do typically hire in good faith. But for larger companies with a high hiring rate, ban-the-box laws promise to be challenging. It is difficult to find and hire the right people when some of your applicant’s information is unavailable to you.

For over two decades, HSD Metrics® has provided HR outsourcing services and guidance to companies. One such service is gathering New Hire Feedback, which focuses on new employee recruiting, orientation and entry experience as a whole. Leave nothing to assumption when it comes to hiring; contact us today, or call (800) 295-1863.

About Deb Dwyer

Deborah Dwyer is the founder and president of HSD Metrics. With over 30 years of combined experience in human resource management and survey research, Deborah’s extensive knowledge reaches beyond organizational research to include significant expertise in work climate improvement, retention, hiring and selection, employee orientation, performance management systems, recognition programs, and career development systems.

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