Oregon Becomes the Seventh State to Ban the Box for Private Employers

By Michael Klazema on 7/1/2015
Oregon is giving the Fair Chance employment movement its latest boost. The state has officially banned the box for private employers, becoming only the seventh state in the Union to take this particular step. In many parts of the country, "ban the box" laws or ordinances are already applicable for public government positions. The push to ban the box for private employers, a far more sweeping legislative decision, taking into account the number of people likely to be affected, has taken longer to catch on.

Banning the box, of course, is the process of prohibiting employers from asking any questions about criminal history on job applications. Oregon's new law will also bar private employers from conducting a criminal background check until after the initial interview.

Previously, six states in the country have banned the box for private employers. These include Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Illinois, and Hawaii. In addition, 11 cities or counties have banned the box for private employers on a more local level. These include Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbia (in Missouri), Montgomery County (in Maryland), Prince George's County (also in Maryland), Rochester, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. This year, there has also been indication that both New York City and Austin, Texas are considering "ban the box" legislation that would apply to private employers.

There are a few exceptions to the new law in Oregon. For instance, in cases where federal, state, or county laws require an employer to consider an applicant's criminal history before hiring them, said employers would not be required to abide by the state's "ban the box" laws. Similarly, the new law does not apply to employers involved law enforcement or criminal justice, nor does it apply to situations in which a business is "seeking a nonemployee volunteer" instead of a full-time or part-time employee.

For everyone else, Oregon's new private employer "ban the box" law will go into effect starting on January 1st, 2016. While employers have a while to comply with the new law, Oregon's legislative bodies encourage businesses to start removing job application questions pertaining to criminal history as soon as possible.

It appears that at this point, "ban the box" policies are the way of the future. Seven states may seem like a small percentage in the grand scheme of things, but with new municipalities pushing to ban the box for private employers every few months, and with the state tally slowly climbing, it's only a matter of time before these policies are observed everywhere. That's good news for applicants who will have better chances of proving themselves without having criminal histories limit their chances before they even get to the interview, and employers can still learn about convictions with background checks.

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