Florida could well be the next state to embrace ban the box legislation. State Representative Randolph Bracy is reportedly co-sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal for public employers throughout the state to ask questions about criminal history on their job applications. The legislation is just another proposal in the growing ban the box and Fair Chance Employment movements.
Bracy's reasons for supporting the bill are similar to what we've seen in other states. He believes that the criminal history "box" on job applications either discourages criminal offenders from seeking gainful employment or results in employment discrimination. "An employer will 'X' them off the list," Bracy said of applicants with criminal histories, according to a report from Central Florida's ABC WFTV Channel 9 news network.
By eliminating the job application question about criminal history, Bracy believes that ex-offenders would have more opportunities to "prove their value or worth." In turn, the State Representative hopes that these enhanced opportunities would improve employment rates for convicts and reduce recidivism.
Already, Florida has a number of ban the box policies on the books—it's just that none of them have yet been enacted on a statewide basis. Numerous cities, counties, and jurisdictions throughout the state have implemented ordinances or local laws requiring the removal of criminal history questions on job applications. According to the Non-Employment Law Project, these jurisdictions include Clearwater, Daytona Beach, Gainsville, Jacksonville, Miami-Dade County, Orlando, Pompano Beach, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Tallahassee.
Unlike in some other states, none of the jurisdictions in Florida have banned the box for private employers. Rather, the policies on the books in Tampa, Miami-Dade, Tallahassee, and the other jurisdictions listed above only apply to public employers. Similarly, the pending state legislation would only apply to state employers. No private company in the state would be barred from asking about criminal history under the proposed law.
The Florida legislation could become the first major triumph for the ban the box movement in 2016. Ban the box policies have been a major trend in the background check and employment industries for several years now. Last year, New York City grabbed headlines by banning the box for all employers—public and private. Expect similar legislation to continue trending in 2016.