What is “Ban the Box”?
The “box” is that place on many employment applications that asks whether the applicant has been convicted of a crime or has been incarcerated. Some may even inquire about arrests.
The proposed charter referendum for Nashville will remove these questions from the application at the initial stage of the employment process so the hiring authority can first get an opportunity to learn about the candidate’s experience, skills, and personality as they relate to the position to be filled.
Why does this matter to our communities?
If families of people with criminal records are going to heal, prosper, and contribute to our community, EVERYONE must have an opportunity for employment, housing, and education. Employment is one of the most effective tools to reduce recidivism (returning to prison), resulting in a safer community and lower cost to tax payers.
Would criminal background checks still be done?
Once the hiring official is prepared to offer the applicant a job or they are a finalist for the open position, an employer would be free to conduct a criminal background check. The applicant would be able to make sure the charges are accurate and explain the nature of the crime, how long ago it was committed, when incarceration ended, and discuss successful rehabilitation efforts and certifications where applicable.
Why are Ban the Box laws important?
If the box is banned by administrative measures only, and not by law (or in Nashville’s case, a charter referendum), then the box can easily be reinstated whenever the administrators change their mind. Moreover, a law creates a formal legal process to eliminate employment discrimination against people with criminal records. Most importantly, employers will have to establish and identify the relationship between the criminal conviction and the prospective job. It is crucial that a “Ban the Box” provision be adopted in Nashville because history has taught us that illegal discrimination can only be eliminated through a formal legal process.
Have other city and county governments made this change to their employment applications?
At least two dozen cities have banned the box, including Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Cincinnati, New Haven, Boston, Jacksonville, Memphis, San Francisco and Kalamazoo. The states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Hawaii have passed laws prohibiting the box on applications for state jobs. Georgia is the most recent state to ban the box. Read about it here.
For more information on Ban the Box initiatives across the U.S., visit the National Employment Law Project website.