ESR offers Ban the Box resources that can help employers meet the challenge of compliance

ban the boxAs Ban the Box efforts increase across the U.S., it can be difficult to keep up-to-date on all the laws that have been passed by cities, states and counties. But it’s important for employers to do so, if they want to be in compliance with those laws.

Novato, Calif.-based ESR (Employment Screening Resources), a global background check organization, has created a Ban the Box Resource Center to help educate employers on how to deal with Ban the Box laws and regulations.

The resources include:

An interactive map of the U.S. Just click on any state to see if there’s a state Ban the Box bill or bills and when they were passed. It also includes all cities and counties that have Ban the Box legislation. According to the map:

  • 11 states – California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont – now have state Ban the Box laws for both public and private employers.
  • 10 states have no Ban the Box laws whatsoever.
  • The rest have either Ban the Box laws for public employees or for cities and/or counties.

A downloadable Ban the Box Resource Guide for States, Counties and Cities. This guide lists the 31 states and more than 150 cities and counties that have established Ban the Box legislation. The list includes links to the various bills and executive orders, so it’s possible to see the exact wording of the laws. It also includes Ban the Box laws created by several cities.

Several whitepapers. These include a general overview of the history and development of Ban the Box legislation and White House and private corporate efforts in this area. Another whitepaper outlines 10 steps that those with criminal records can take to help them get back in the workforce,

A series of infographics. These downloadable infographic reports highlight how California, Los Angeles and San Francisco have handled their Ban the Box efforts.

Together what ESR has created is a great resource for anyone who needs to be aware of Ban the Box laws, wherever they may be located. It might also inspire other city, county and state governments to establish laws of their own.

Philanthropic leaders challenge foundations to ban the box

ban the boxPhilanthropic leaders from 42 foundations announced late last month that they have banned the box, joining a decade-long movement that has spread to 21 states and more than 100 localities.

The foundations, all members and allies of the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, have committed to adopting second-chance hiring policies or ensuring that questions about criminal convictions do not appear on their employment applications. The ultimate goal: to increase employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated job seekers in the philanthropic sector.

Foundations take action as employers to ban the box 

The Alliance, through its Ban the Box Philanthropy Challenge, invites other foundations to join them. Although foundations have funded “ban the box” efforts across the country, now for the first time they are being encouraged to take action as employers to help rectify the problems that formerly incarcerated job seekers face.

“It is time to end the pervasive discrimination against people with past criminal records. The era of mass incarceration and the war on drugs have done severe damage to families and communities, with an enormously disproportionate impact on people of color,” says Tim Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation “All employers can be leaders in ensuring that a prior conviction does not mean a lifetime of unemployment. Everyone deserves a second chance and the opportunity to compete for a job.”

This call to action follows positive developments in the private sector led by companies like Target, Starbucks and Facebook.

More than one-third of American adults have criminal records

The need to ban the box is urgent. More than 70 million – nearly one in three – American adults have arrest or conviction records that might appear in background checks, limiting their possibilities for employment.

In addition to issuing the challenge, the Alliance has commissioned the National Employment Law Project to develop a Model Fair Chance Hiring Policy and Toolkit for employers in the philanthropic sector.

Among actions foundations are being encouraged to take are:

  • To remove “the box” from employment applications.
  • Leave background checks till the end of the hiring process.
  • Integrate the U.S. EEOC’s (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) guidelines into hiring considerations.
  • Adopt strong standards of transparency and accuracy.

The actions of the philanthropic sector set an example for others to follow. It will be interesting to see how many others do.


Target Corp. bans the box on employment applications

237014_Martinsburg_VA_TargetThe nationwide battle to ban the box is gaining strength with the decision late last month by Minneapolis-headquartered Target Corp. to remove from its employment applications the box that applicants must check if they have a criminal record.

Target’s move, however, was not totally altruistic. Intense pressure by TakeAction Minnesota, a statewide coalition of organizations dedicated to economic and social justice, helped force the issue.

And on top of that, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a law earlier this year – effective Jan. 1, 2014 – that expands the ban-the-box policy already in force for state government agencies to cover all private employers in Minnesota. To its credit, however, Target plans to carry out the policy for all of its employees across the U.S.

The company will keep the box off of the application form, postponing the question until the applicant is being interviewed or has a tentative job offer. This gives those who were formerly convicted or incarcerated a chance to get their foot in the door and make a good impression, hopefully encouraging the hiring manger to approach them as a human being rather than with an all-too-typical stereotypical attitude about their past.

As the country’s second largest retailer after Walmart, which removed the box from its applications in 2010, Target’s action could have an impact nationwide. The company operates 1,797 stores in this country – it also began operating stores in Canada in March – with 361,000 employees worldwide.

“Target is finally doing the right thing by reforming its hiring policies so that qualified job applicants aren’t automatically screened out simply because they have an arrest or conviction from the past,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “Other large retailers around the nation need to follow suit, because their hiring policies send a strong message about whether they are committed to the communities that support their business.”

Four states lead the way

Although Target’s action may help propel the ban-the-box movement forward, true credit should be given to Minnesota lawmakers. They took the initiative, joining Hawaii and Massachusetts, which have already enacted laws requiring private employers to ban the box, as has Rhode Island. Like Minnesota’s, Rhode Island’s legislation will go into effect at the beginning of next year.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, and New Mexico all ban the box for employment applications for state agency jobs, and more than 50 cities, including New York City, Baltimore and Chicago have banned the box on applications for local government positions.

The National Employment Law project publishes a Ban the Box directory detailing all of the cities and counties that have banned the box. The directory includes a history of how they did it and their current hiring practices, as well as contact information and links to government agencies, organizations, reports, laws and examples of employment applications. It also includes other resources for those who want to know more about the subject.

While ban-the-box efforts have been ongoing for several years on a variety of fronts, Target’s action may prove to be an inspiration to continue to broaden efforts beyond government agencies. In fact, it didn’t take long for Illinois State Representative La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) to take action. On Oct. 29, after Target announced its new intentions, Ford, who was the driving force for a state initiative banning the box on application for state agency jobs, made an appeal to all Illinois businesses to follow suit.

Who will be next?


Ban the box gains victory at Oakland Army Base redevelopment project

Oakland Army Base redevelopment project will bring improvements to the Port of Oakland.

The latest victory in the movement to “ban the box” comes courtesy of local activists in Oakland, Calif. It will affect the application forms for the nearly 5,000 employees who will be hired to work on the soon-to-be-redeveloped 366-acre site of the former Oakland Army Base.

On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council approved the massive Oakland Army Base redevelopment project, estimated to cost $1 billion and generate 2,810 construction and 2,032 permanent jobs. Work is scheduled to begin in 2013 on the development, which will include a logistics center and new warehouse facilities for the Port of Oakland, as well as improved rail access and a deep-water port terminal.

In recent months, members of a variety of community groups have pressured developers Prologis and California Capital Investment Group to prevent future employers from requesting job seekers to disclose their criminal history on employment applications. And the developers agreed to make sure that would happen.

According to the Oakland Tribune, the developers also agreed to institute local hiring preferences for Oakland and West Oakland residents. The Oakland Army Base sits between Hwy 580 and the Port of Oakland on the edge of West Oakland, an area with a high rate of poverty and unemployment.

As facilities are completed, they are expected to attract employers from throughout the Bay Area who want to be located in close proximity to the port. Those employers will find a ready supply of workers, including ex-offenders who will be given a better chance of a job thanks to applications without the box.

Six states, including California, and more than 30 cities and counties across the nation have banned the box for public jobs. While Hawaii and Massachusetts apply the ban to both public and private employers, in other states the private sector has been slow to institute the practice.

Advocates of the ban say that having a criminal record does not mean that ex-offenders cannot satisfactorily perform the requirements of a particular job.  Maybe the Oakland Army Base redevelopment project will inspire other employers elsewhere to join the movement and ban the box.

If there are any projects with similar ban-the-box demands in other parts of the country, we’d love to hear about them.


Efforts to “ban the box” continue

If Assembly Bill 1831 passes the California State Assembly, it will become the latest victory in a nationwide effort to “ban the box.” The “box” refers to the place on job applications which asks applicants to state their criminal history information.

The bill, sponsored by California State Assembly member Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) and currently in committee, states that a California city or county or a city or county agency may not ask an applicant’s criminal history on the original application form. Once the government or local agency determines that the applicant meets the qualifications for the job, however, they can consider an applicant’s criminal history, At that point the applicant has made it past the original screening and has a better chance of being considered for the position.

This act would help remove some of the barriers to employment for the one in four adult Californians who have been arrested or convicted. It follows the action of the California State Personnel Board, which, in June 2010 under Governor Schwarzenegger, removed “the box” from the application form for California state jobs.

California’s action will put it at the forefront of a bi-partisan movement across the nation to begin to remove the barriers keeping ex-offenders from becoming employed and, in the end, help reduce recidivism rates.

California has joined five other states in these efforts to delay inquiries into an individual’s criminal record during the employment application process. In Connecticut and New Mexico, the inquiry delay applies to state personnel and licensing; and in Minnesota it applies to all public employment. Hawaii and Massachusetts have taken the most progressive steps; in those states, the delay applies to all public and private employment.

In addition to the California State Personnel Board, several California cities and counties have also instituted measures to delay inquiry. These are Alameda County, San Francisco County and the cities of Berkeley, East Palo Alto, Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, Compton and San Diego.

More than 30 cities and counties in other parts of the U.S. that have adopted fair hiring policies include New York City; Austin, Tex.; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Minneapolis; New Haven, Conn.; Providence, R.I.; Philadelphia, Penn.; St. Paul, Minn.; Seattle; and Worcester, Mass.

Banning the box is not only the equitable thing to do, but it will offer employers a wider pool of qualified applicants. In the February 2012 issue of HR Magazine, Mark Washington, human resources director for the city of Austin, Texas, said that since the city adopted a policy to delay inquiry into applicants’ criminal histories, more qualified candidates with criminal backgrounds – candidates who previously may have opted against completing the application due to the background questions – have applied. “There are extremely talented and qualified people who happen to be ex-offenders,” Washington said. “They are just as productive as people who do not have criminal records.”