Ban the Box Policies May Be on the Way in Tucson, Arizona

By Michael Klazema on 10/24/2014

Tucson, Arizona may be the next city to implement ban the box policies on job applications. As with the many other cities, towns, states, and counties throughout the country that have already banned the box, the Tucson policy would prohibit employers from asking about criminal history on applications. Already, the city manager has removed such questions from city job applications. The Tucson City Council is now meeting to discuss whether or not to ban the box in the private sector as well.

According to a report from KVOA, a Tucson NBC affiliate, there is a special need for banning the box in Tucson. The NBC network spoke to Sold No More, a local non-profit that works to prevent sex trafficking in Tucson. One of the people who works for the non-profit said that many sex trafficking victims have criminal charges on their records for prostitution and other offenses. These crimes lead to employment discrimination of young women who are merely the victims of a grotesque industry. Banning the box, therefore, might help these girls find employment and regain control of their lives, instead of allowing them to be unfairly shunned by society for being victimized.

Sex trafficking victims are just one of the many groups that would benefit from ban the box policies. So many individuals lose out on job opportunities because of past criminal charges even if those charges are 10 or 20 years old and have nothing to do with the job at hand. All of these people are likely hoping that the Tucson City Council will extend the reach of its current public sector ban the box policies to include private employers, which it should do. If a city is going to have a policy like this in place, it should apply to all employers, not just some.

What Tucson shouldn't do is do away with background checks altogether, which the KVOA article claims is one of the considerations being made. City council will debate when and if the city should perform background checks on applicants, the article says.

Most areas that have implemented ban the box policies have allowed background checks to be run after the initial interview, or at very least, after a tentative offer of employment has been made. Tucson should follow this model.

The great thing about ban the box legislation is that it can combat employment discrimination of ex-criminals while still leaving the background checks in place. Because they don't know about criminal history right away, employers are more likely to learn about and get to know applicants they might otherwise never have even interviewed. An ex-convict, therefore, is actually given a chance by these laws to prove him or herself as the best candidate for a job.

None of this is prevented by the running of background checks. Employers have the right to know who they are hiring and whether or not that person might pose a threat to them, to their customers, or their overall business reputation. Banning the box works because it levels the playing field and gives ex-convicts a fighting chance at decent employment. Getting rid of background checks altogether, like the Tucson City Council is supposedly considering, would actually put employers at a disadvantage.


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