Recently President Obama announced that he is banning the box on federal job applications. Many states and companies had already banned the box, prior to his announcement, but bringing the law into the federal arena is good news for its supporters. As of now there are 19 states with ban-the-box laws, California adopted the policy in 2010. Ban-the-box laws aim to help assimilate people who have been convicted back into society after they have done their time.
The law does not prohibit asking the question, but it takes it off first round applications so the convicted can be assessed on their skills and experience rather than their mistakes. Some of the supporting ideas behind this movement are: everyone deserves a second chance, rehabilitation is good for our country as a whole, and some people are doing time for things that are legal in other states, such as marijuana charges. Now that the movement is supported by Obama it is likely that other states will follow suit, it could even become a federal law in the future. Of course some people will still get disqualified in later rounds once their history comes up, but it gives more people a fighting chance.
Impacts and Challenges
Of course, as with many new laws, banning the box impacts employers and will present challenges to HR. This new installment only affects federal employers, but as the movement spreads more states and companies will be enforcing the same rules, so what does that mean for you? The impacts on the employer differ depending on if you are a supporter or critic of the law. Supporters feel this will impact their business positively by exposing their open positions to a larger talent pool, but critics worry about safety and security. Montserrat Miller a partner of Arnall Golden Gregory stated, ““From a risk mitigation and due diligence perspective, employers need to be informed about job applicants’ past history as it is important to maintaining a safe work environment, especially if there is a criminal past, in the interest of transparency, it is beneficial for HR to know relevant information as early in the process as possible if the goal is to make informed decisions.” If your state or company bans the box it will be up to you and your HR team to decide if and when to ask the question.
Rehabilitation is a very vital step for people who have been convicted of a crime. People who are able to get jobs after serving their time are less likely to be convicted again. In order to assist this President Obama announced measures to help, in addition to banning the box for federal employment. There will be adult reentry education grants available to nine communities, arrests guidance for public and other HUD-assisted housing, expanded tech training and jobs for individuals with criminal records, a national clean slate clearinghouse, permanent supportive housing for the reentry population through pay for success, and juvenile reentry assistance program awards to support public housing residents. For more information regarding these programs to promote rehabilitation and reintegration for the formerly- incarcerated, click here.
As the department of labor explains, banning the box is not only good for the convicted, but it is good for people with disabilities as well. “Given that many individuals with criminal records also have mental health disorders, banning the box has an important ancillary effect: it can also be a key strategy in helping to raise the employment rate — and thus economic self-sufficiency — of people with disabilities.” This is just one of the many issues concerning workplace equality that is being brought to the forefront and into the public eye.
Menlo Partners Staffing stays on top of employment law so if you have questions, or need help hiring, give us a call today, (650)752-6193.