Why Every Company Should "Ban the Box"

The movement known as the “Ban the Box” Campaign has been adopted by over 100 U.S. cities and counties, and although it has a long way to go before it’s recognized nation-wide, it has been gaining a lot of traction in the last few years. The concept behind the movement is to encourage employers to consider a candidate’s qualifications before they are influenced by the stigma of a criminal record. To do this, employers simply remove the check box from their hiring applications that asks if applicants have a criminal record. This allows them to represent themselves based on their experience and skillset before having to divulge information about their criminal history. 

An important distinction: Ban the Box legislation does not force employers to hire convicted criminals. Nor does it prevent them from asking about criminal history or conduct background checks. It simply means they cannot ask the candidates for this information upfront. 

If your company has this checkbox on your general application, read over the reasons below and consider how removing it can be better for your business.  

You’re Missing Out on Quality Candidates

According to a recent study, there are an estimated of 65 million Americans with a criminal record of some kind; that’s approximately one in four Americans who are of working age*. If employers are in the habit of refusing all candidates who check the box, they could be missing out on some highly qualified potential employees. By running background checks after meeting candidates first, you might be surprised at which tests come back positive. Once you have all the information at your disposal, you can then decide whether their offense is too severe for them to be a good fit within your company. At least this way you can be satisfied that you made an educated decision unclouded by biased opinions or stigmas.  

The Laws Surrounding the Issue can be Convoluted

It is illegal to have a blanket ban on hiring anyone with a criminal record, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is cracking down on companies who discriminate against such candidates. The exception occurs when the offense is related to the job in question. For example, it would make sense for a general manager of a department store to hesitate before hiring someone with a conviction of “retail fraud” on their record. The more vague the offense or complex the job duties, however, the more room you have for error and risk receiving penalties. By removing the box from your initial application you eliminate the chance of accruing fees, while still being able to maintain the integrity of your company. 

People Deserve Second Chances

It’s important to keep in mind that people make mistakes. Some people do foolish things early in life and try really hard to turn things around and make an honest living for themselves. Making it difficult for these people to find work only increases the chance of them becoming repeat offenders. Imagine how much of a difference we could make if everybody got a fair chance at employment, and felt like they were being treated equally. We’re all human, after all. I challenge you to think of a mistake you’ve made in your life. Whatever you did may not have necessarily been illegal, but I’ll bet you regret it all the same and strive to learn from it. Don’t others deserve the same chance?