Is Your Employment Application Illegal?
Ban the Box is a phrase, and a movement, that has been getting more and more attention recently. The intention is to allow individuals with a criminal record to have an equal opportunity to obtain a job based on their qualifications. By “banning the box”, employers must remove the question about conviction history job applications.
Some states, cities and counties have passed laws about the felony box (also called Fair Chance Policy), requiring employers to remove the question on conviction history from applications. In Michigan, Kalamazoo, East Lansing, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Genesee County and Muskegon County have all passed legislation regarding the Fair Chance Policy. You can read more about each one here.
In addition, there are multiple states that have “banned the box.” As of July 2016, these states are: Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington DC. Connecticut and Vermont are putting their state-wide ban the box laws into effect in 2017.
If you don’t know about these changes, your employment application may be violating the law. In this case, what you don’t know can really hurt you.
Because no two versions of Fair Chance laws are the same, you should always check with the city or state you are in and follow local laws. In Detroit, for example, this legislation applies to those in the city and to outside vendors who work in or with the city. For example, if a Troy-based construction company is hired to do renovations in Detroit, they are not allowed to ask about criminal records while hiring people to do the job in Detroit.
This doesn’t preclude you from ever asking the question. You may be able to ask about criminal background, but each is unique as to when you can, sometimes during the actual interview and some after the job offer is made. It depends and you must research local laws to stay current.
Staying on top of changing regulations are hard, but considering the national attention this law is getting, it’s better to know than to accidentally break it.