Thirty-seven states have banned the box, with more than 100 individual municipalities taking the same steps. In these places, employers cannot ask about an individual’s criminal history on the initial job application, nor can they typically use a background check early in the hiring process. Instead, they must conduct an interview or determine whether an applicant is a good fit before considering additional information to provide greater context to the interview process.
Despite some unintended side effects, these laws have, by and large, proven successful at opening more doors to the formerly incarcerated. In one North Carolina county, 97% of employees who were found to have a record after a delayed background check still ultimately got the job. While some employers have resorted to racial stereotyping to circumvent ban the box laws, most play by the rules—and those rules expand opportunities and open the door to real second chances.
In 2015, the city of St. Petersburg in Florida chose to “ban the box” for county employment, prohibiting background checks except where required by law or for jobs relating to public safety. Now, years later, the county wants to expand upon the success of its initial program by extending these protections to any contractor that bids to work with the county.
This is a common choice for expansion in many municipalities that have ban the box laws, especially in states that do not have any law applicable to private businesses. Some states even extend ban the box protections to employees of state contractors. The thinking is simple: even though these are often private companies, the fact that they perform work paid by public dollars means they should be subject to the same rules as regular county employees.
St. Petersburg has opted to move the amendment to the law forward for debate, although it remains to be seen whether the proposed change will come into force. However, for employers in the area, this change to the background check compliance and regulation warrants watching. That need is especially present for those who may provide services to the city, such as transit providers, building contractors, and even food vendors.
Ban the box laws do not prevent employers from doing their due diligence or protecting their staff and clients against negligent hiring risks. Because these laws almost universally require a delay to the check, you can still check someone’s background and make adverse action decisions when the results indicate specific job-related risks.
Compliance with these rules requires vigilance due to the changes that can frequently occur, especially if your business operates in multiple cities or states. Staying up to date does more than ensure you have peace of mind about compliance; it helps your business consider more applicants and ultimately find more qualified individuals that the system often overlooks. Whether St. Petersburg adopts changes to their ban the box laws, all employers should watch for changes to regulations in their own areas of operation and consider their impact ahead of time.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments