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Monday, February 4, 2013

Should the box be banned?

The city of Tampa passed legislation in January 2013 to remove the criminal history question on employment applications. Tampa became the latest in a growing list of cities that have passed such laws.  In February 2012 there were thirty-two cities. Tampa now makes forty-six. In our area, Baltimore, Wilmington, DE, and Washington, DC have laws preventing asking about criminal history. Currently, seven states have statewide “ban the box” laws. A bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2012, but subsequently died in committee.

Removing the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime” or any inquiry about criminal history from employment applications has become known as  “ban the box”. The movement of the campaign feels that one’s criminal history should not be a consideration of employment at the time an application is submitted, rather, at a later time during the interview process. It is felt that asking this question on the application reduces the chances of those with criminal records to be employed, thus, allowing the applicant to be evaluated on their qualifications.

As part of the screening process, most employers perform criminal history inquiries. In a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management, 92 percent of their members perform criminal background checks on some or all candidates. It is inevitable that employers are going to come across applicants that have criminal records. The National Employment Law Project estimates that over 65 million Americans have some sort of criminal record. The cost of making a poor hiring decision can cost a business $10,000-$50,000, depending on the level of employee hired.

Employers need to do their due diligence to avoid bad hires. At what point in the process the employer asks about criminal history and what value the employer puts on criminal records over qualifications, are two important points to be considered.

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