The Federal Government Should Pass Legislation Banning Employers from Asking About Criminal Convictions on Initial Job Applications
When Daniel left prison two years ago he walked out of the doors with hope and optimism. He had completed all of the recovery programs that were available and attended his narcotic anonymous meetings religiously while incarcerated. He knew that with the help he had received and his “can do” attitude, he was certain to obtain employment and become a productive member of society. After all, he was a single parent of two young kids and they were counting on him. No way would he ever let them down again!
Now, two years later sitting in front of his computer screen, filling out yet another job application he was filled with self-doubt, hopelessness and desperation. He knew it was probably just a waste of time. Most employers would never read past the application section that he was staring at with dread. The words leapt off the screen and taunted him, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” To answer yes was almost a certain disqualification. To lie would not only be dishonest but could lead to later termination. He felt so desperate, but what more could he do?
This scenario is played out every single minute in the United States. Potentially highly qualified individuals are immediately dismissed because of their past mistakes. That is why it is imperative for the United States Legislature to pass a law that would prohibit potential employers from asking an applicant about their convictions until after the initial application process.
With the numbers of individuals being incarcerated in the United States increasing on a consistent basis, the potential work pool for employers to choose from is decreasing at a rapid rate. Nearly every employer uses some type of background check as a screening tool for employment applicants. Considering that one in four adults has some type of criminal conviction that would most likely show up on one of these background checks, employers are automatically eliminating a huge (25%) section of the populace for employment. ”A recent study shows that in nearly 50% of cases, employers were unwilling to consider equally qualified applicants on the basis of their criminal record.” (SB 459 Ban the Box). This statistic shows how easily employers discard the applications of those who have a criminal history no matter what their qualifications.
“Ban the Box”. What is it?
The proposal to remove the criminal conviction question from initial job applications is not a new one. Cities and counties in at least 23 States have some form of legislation involving Ban the Box already in place (fig1).
National Employment Law Project
A map from the National Employment Law Project shows which states have adopted 'ban the box' legislation.
The Ban the Box campaign began in Hawaii in 1990. Since then it has gained a great deal of support among civil rights...