Policy & RESEARCH

Capitol Ideas

CSG Knowledge Center

Research Services

MLC Policy Resolutions

Stateline Midwest

States Perform

Policy & Research

Question of the Month ~ November 2013

 

Q. What is “ban the box” legislation, and what states have enacted it?

“Ban the box” is a nationwide effort to remove inquiries about criminal history from employer job applications. Supporters argue that the question should be deferred until later in the interview process and not used as an automatic bar to employment at the application stage.
Ten states have enacted “ban the box” measures, including Illinois and Minnesota in the Midwest, according to the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit group that advocates for these restrictions on employers.
In 2009, Minnesota banned public employers (except the Department of Corrections) from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until the applicant had been selected for an interview or received a conditional offer of employment.
Starting next year, private employers in the state will have the same restriction, as the result of legislation signed into law this year. SF 523, however, does not apply to employers who have a statutory duty to conduct a criminal history or to consider a potential employee’s criminal history during the hiring process.
Three states outside the region — Hawaii, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — have laws prohibiting both public and private employers from asking about criminal history on job applications.
A bill introduced this year in Michigan (HB 4366) would prohibit public and private employers from asking if a person had been convicted of a felony. Current state law allows employers to ask about felony or misdemeanor convictions as well as felony arrests that did not result in conviction.
In Michigan, the cities of Detroit and Kalamazoo, as well as the county of Muskegon, have “banned the box” on their employment applications. In all, more than 50 local jurisdictions have passed such ordinances, most during the past five years.
In October, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed an administrative order barring questions about criminal history from state employment applications. In the order, he noted that “employment is one of the most effective tools to reduce recidivism.”
But just getting in the door to obtain an interview can be difficult for individuals who have a conviction or arrest on their record, because many job applications ask people to check a box if they have been convicted of a crime.
In April 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance to help employers ensure that they are conducting background checks in compliance with the Fair Credit Recording Act. Regarding the use of criminal checks, the commission urges employers to consider the crime, its relation to an applicant’s potential job, and how much time has passed since the conviction.

Article written by Laura Kliewer, a senior policy analyst at CSG Midwest. Question of the Month highlights an inquiry received by CSG Midwest through its Information Help Line.