In an effort to limit bias against job applicants with criminal histories, legislation to ‘ban the box’ that employers use on preliminary job applications to ask about past criminal records has been introduced in the State of Rhode Island General Assembly by Representative Scott Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), according to a press release available at http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/News/pr1.asp?prid=8903.
“The legislation being introduced provides basic protections from discrimination for people with a criminal record,” Representative Slater stated in the press release. He also said that banning the box gives job seekers “a chance to be considered on their qualifications, not immediately rejected from consideration because of a wrong decision in their past for which they have paid their debt to society.”
The ‘ban the box’ legislation would remove from job applications questions such as “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor?” and would allow applicants to explain previous convictions at the interview after they have been deemed otherwise qualified for the job. The legislation would require employers to only deny applicants based on their criminal histories if the employer determines there is a direct relationship between a job and an applicant’s criminal history.
However, the legislation – which would apply to both public-sector and private-sector employers — would not prevent employers from asking for a criminal background check, once the applicant satisfies minimum criteria for the position based on qualifications and ability. In addition, the bill would not override any law that bars people with certain convictions from certain occupations, such as working with children or the elderly and certain financial positions among others.
According to an October 2012 Briefing Paper from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), seven states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Mexico – have adopted “ban the box” policies similar to the proposed legislation, which would apply to both public- and private-sector employers but would not prevent employers from conducting background checks. The NELP Briefing Paper is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/1cd9469c4974603224_izm6b8pzw.pdf.
In addition, a November 2012 NELP Resource Guide shows over 40 cities and counties nationwide – including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC – have joined the “ban the box” movement to remove questions on job applications about a job applicant’s criminal history. The Resource Guide from NELP – an organization that focuses on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers – is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/f3a28d325b4b237428_00m6bk6qf.pdf.
This trend of cities and states adopting “ban the box” policies removing criminal history questions from applications and delaying them until later in the hiring process so that qualified applicants with arrests or convictions are not shut out from job opportunities is one of the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) ‘Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2013.’ The list of trends, chosen by ESR Founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen, is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends-for-2013.php.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ – is a nationwide background screening firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). For information about background checks, visit http://www.esrcheck.com, call Toll Free 888.999.4474, or email email@example.com.
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