Multiple states and local municipalities have moved to implement ban the box regulations that apply to public or private employers or both. “The box” refers to a check box that commonly appears on employment applications prompting applicants to indicate whether they have any criminal convictions. The stated goal of banning the box is to level the playing field: by delaying inquiries into an individual's criminal history, employers can provide rehabilitated individuals with a better opportunity to secure employment and build a career.
Some locales are discovering putting the policy into practice is not as easy as simply banning the box. Per reports from the Augusta Chronicle, commissioners in the city of Augusta, Georgia were surprised to learn their policy changes had not resulted in a reform of the city's hiring processes. Commissioners were unaware departmental procedures were inadvertently subverting ban the box policies until one member asked about data on the effects on the city's hiring efforts.
Applications for employment with the city do not feature criminal history questions anymore, as intended by the city's policy change. As in many other regulations nationwide, candidates undergo evaluation for suitability based on their initial application. After identifying prospective candidates, the city orders a criminal background check, similar to one of the state-level or nationwide reports offered through backgroundchecks.com. This is the stage at which problems began.
Other city procedures stipulated that if certain convictions were found on an applicant's background check, they faced automatic disqualification from moving further along in the hiring process. The result was essentially the same as if the criminal history box had remained on the city's employment applications.
City commissioners were shocked. The goal, according to the Chronicle, was to develop a hiring process that weighed the nature of the crime and its relation to any potential job role—a policy in line with many other vetting best practice guidelines nationwide.
For now, the city's hands are tied by their own rules, but commissioners have vowed to take up the issue again. By formulating new rules that clarify how information from background checks can be used and adding more individualized consideration for applicants, the hope is to fully level the playing field as the commission originally intended.
In the process, they will need to navigate other concerns over who in the city should have access to knowledge about the background check results. Some departmental heads believe it is their right to know, while others want the data to remain the sole domain of HR.
Navigating issues of compliance and fairness while implementing reliable hiring procedures can be challenging. For public and private employers, working with a provider that makes it easy to acquire all the relevant information on a candidate can make the process simpler. backgroundchecks.com provides a variety of tailored services and background check reports, assisting employers with the challenges of compliance.