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Criminal Records and Ban-the-Box; a Continuing Struggle

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September 28, 2016 Return to News & Events

Criminal Records and Ban-the-Box; a Continuing Struggle

Ban-the-box policies continue to dominate the legal landscape regarding the use of Criminal Background Records as a key component of pre-employment background screening. Initially held as an important tool in leveling the playing field for all individuals applying for a job, ban-the-box has witnessed recent criticism.

The simple goal of the ban-the-box movement is to eliminate the question of criminal history from an application for employment. It is a widely held belief that this one question severely limits the fair and equal opportunity of all candidates. With the highest incarceration rates in the world, the need to create a level playing field in employment remains critical.

Criminal records can severely impact an individual attempting to reintegrate back into society. Some suggest that without employment recidivism is more likely to occur.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of states: “Criminal history reports can indicate arrests and/or convictions. While certain laws protect how far back in time a criminal record can be used the mere mention of a criminal record can become a limiting factor in fair access to employment.”

Both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are tasked with enforcing laws governing the fair and equal use of criminal histories. Along with the broad reach of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, criminal history information is controlled. Ban-the-Box legislation goes further in removing the question of criminal history. Yet challenges remain.

From the Nation Law Review (, Sep 09, 16):

New research by Amanda Agan, a Princeton economist, and Sonja Starr, a legal scholar at the University of Michigan, suggests that, at least in some cases, “ban the box” rules may result in the use of race as a proxy for criminal history. This may increase racial disparity in hiring– even in the absence of criminal histories. (1)

Troubling conclusions came from this research.

The racial gap in callbacks before the ban the box laws was 7% at companies that asked applicants about criminal history. After the laws were enacted, it went up to 45%, suggesting that black applicants were presumed to have a criminal past if the prospective employer was not permitted to inquire. (2)

Reaction to the claims stated in the Agan/Starr research study was swift.

From (Aug. 18, 16):

NELP’s analysis reviewed the two studies in question and came to several conclusions: the core problems that were raised in the two studies has nothing to do with ban-the-box polices, but with racism that’s entrenched in the hiring process where Blacks are negatively profiled; the studies don’t support its own conclusions about ban-the-box being a detriment to Blacks looking for a job; the studies highlight the needs for more policies that deal with race discrimination in hiring and boost jobs opportunities for people with records; and ban-the-box has worked by changing some employers attitudes about applicants with records. (2)

Almeida states: “The back and forth presented by studies for and against Ban-the-Box ultimately highlight the need for all companies large and small to work with a well-qualified third-party background screening company in order to stay ahead of all legislation governing the use of Criminal History information.” is a third-party background screening company that can provide compliant solutions for all screening requirements. From pre-employment to post-hire screening provides background screening services across a broad array of industries. From the smallest organization to the largest corporation, can fulfill every employment screening requirement.



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