Civil rights organizations, politicians and others are calling for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to prohibit employers from asking job seekers if they have a criminal record on employment applications.
Last summer, the EEOC held a hearing regarding a possible ban on criminal background checks for screening employees, but has not yet released its opinion. Some states are already eliminating the criminal record question for state job applicants.
Why are supporters calling for the “box ban?” Some say that it prevents applicants from getting a fair chance at a job, because they don’t have an opportunity to explain the circumstances if they don’t ever get an interview. They say that too often, employers automatically eliminate anyone with a criminal history during the application process.
Others say that in most cases, the conviction is not related or relevant to the position being filled. Still others say that the disproportionate number of people of color with criminal records means this is essentially a civil rights issue. Advocates say they are behind the ban in an effort to reduce discrimination and unfair barriers against people with felony and misdemeanor convictions—particularly those that occurred years or decades ago.
Some cities have enacted ordinances prohibiting employers from asking anything about criminal backgrounds until after an applicant’s first interview. In Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston, criminal background checks are permitted after an interview, but requiring an applicant to reveal his or her criminal record on a job application is not.
Advocates say that employment is the way to a better life for individuals with criminal records, and that it levels the playing field by allowing everyone to be judged on qualifications and merit. But many employers are understandably hesitant to take that chance.
We’ll keep you posted on these possible changes, so you can make the best hiring decisions for your business.
Have you hired an employee with a criminal conviction? How did it work out?