A tiny box is a giant barrier for millions of Americans.
When asked if they’ve ever been arrested or charged with a crime, some 65 million adults would have to check the box “yes” on job applications.
“In the right situations, criminal background checks promote safety and security in the workplace. However, imposing a background check that denies any type of employment for people with criminal records is not only unreasonable, but it can also be illegal under civil rights laws,” according to a 2011 report, “65 Million Need Not Apply” from the National Employment Law Project.
A “ban the box” movement backed by NELP has been picking up steam. Six states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and New Mexico – now have either an administrative order or legislation prohibiting government agencies from including the box in an initial application. Four other states – Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island – have the prohibition for government agencies and have extended the ban to private employers.
In all states, the question can be asked later in the hiring process. The NELP website, Nelp.org/banthebox, contains more detail about the bans in each state.
Even in states that don’t have this policy, there are 56 cities and localities that have acted on their own, including New York City, Philadelphia, Memphis and New Orleans.
“An arrest or conviction record can make it much harder to find work,” says Michelle Rodriguez, NELP staff attorney. Helping to reduce that barrier is beneficial not just to ex-offenders, but to society as a whole.
“One study found that lowered job prospects of people with felonies and formerly incarcerated people cost the U.S. economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output,” says Rodriguez.
© CTW Features