Indiana Senator Wants to Ban “Ban the Box” Legislation
Could Indiana make it illegal for municipalities to implement “ban the box” ordinances? If a Republican State Senator gets his way, then yes. Per a report from The Times of Northwest Indiana, Phil Boots, an Indiana State Senator from the town of Crawfordsville, has announced a plan to introduce a new piece of legislation during the current session. The law in question, he says, would bar cities, towns, and counties throughout Indiana from enacting "ban the box" policies.
Boots and his planned legislation align with comments made recently by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Per the Times article, the Chamber of Commerce believes that “ban the box” ordinances are unfair to businesses. Employers should be allowed to make their own decisions about who to hire, the Chamber says. “Ban the box” ordinances impair this freedom by forcing businesses to remove questions about criminal history from their job applications. Some “ban the box” policies even restrict when in the hiring process employers can run background checks on their applicants.
Proponents of “ban the box” ordinances argue that the policies help ex-criminal offenders find jobs and rebuild their lives—thereby reducing recidivism. Mike Ripley, who serves as the Vice President of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, doesn’t disagree with that argument. However, he does believe that employers should be the ones ultimately making the decision of whether to hire individuals with criminal records. Technically, employers still make that decision, as “ban the box” policies don’t forbid pre-employment background checks. However, “ban the box” policies do delay when in the hiring process employers can learn about applicant criminal histories.
Indiana hasn’t seen much in the way of "ban the box" legislation over the years. While some states have more than half a dozen municipalities that have passed "ban the box" ordinances (in California, for instance, 12 districts have some form of "ban the box" legislation), Indiana only has one. Marion County, the county that houses Indianapolis, banned the box for public employees and contractors in 2014. The county has yet to prohibit the box for private employers, however.
The legislation that Boots is currently drafting would not retroactively eliminate the "ban the box" ordinance in Marion County. For the time being at least, public employers in Indianapolis would still not be permitted to ask about criminal history on job applications. However, if the legislation passes, no other city or county in the state would be authorized to implement its own "ban the box" ordinance.
Boots said he wants to push this legislation to make things simpler and more uniform for employers. He is worried that, if different policies began emerging in every different city or county, businesses would have a difficult time knowing what rules to follow. If Indiana bans “ban the box,” then all employers outside of Marion County would know that they were free to ask about criminal history on job applications.