Tennessee Ban the Box Bill Is Nearly Law

By Michael Klazema on 3/22/2016
From the looks of it, Tennessee will soon add its name to the list of states that bans the box for public employers. A bill to remove questions pertaining to criminal history from all state job applications recently passed a vote in the Tennessee Senate. Now, the bill is on its way to the desk of Governor Bill Haslam for a final signature of approval.

So long as Governor Haslam signs the legislation—and there is no reason to believe that he won't—Tennessee will become the 22nd state in the country to ban the box for public employers. According to the National Employment Law Project, seven of those 22 states—Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island—have gone one step further with the Fair Chance Employment movement, banning the box for private employers as well as public employers.

Tennessee isn't quite to that place yet, but the state's ban the box legislation will make sure that nearly half of the country has Fair Chance Employment laws on the books. In addition to statewide ban the box laws, Washington D.C. and dozens of cities, counties, and municipalities across the country have also taken steps to remove the criminal history question from job applications. Several areas throughout Tennessee are a part of that list, including Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Hamilton County. All four localities had previously banned the box for public employers. No cities or counties in Tennessee have yet banned the box for private employers.

According to the Memphis Business Journal, though, Tennessee could also soon become the eighth state to ban the box for private employers. The newspaper reported that as the public ban the box bill heads to the governor, a companion bill that would change private hiring practices has also passed the State Senate.

The same article noted that between 1980 and 2008, the rate of incarceration in the United States quadrupled. That statistic underlines the perceived need for ban the box legislation, which helps eliminate some of the stigma that ex-offenders carry with them in their job searches.

As usual, Tennessee's laws would allow employers to run background checks. However, by postponing conversations about criminal history to later in the employment screening process, the legislation would aim to give one-time criminal offenders a better chance to prove themselves as quality hires.

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