Report Suggests Ways to Improve Ban the Box Policies to Help Prevent Racial Discrimination

 ban the box

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A research report released by the nonprofit Urban Institute in February 2017 – ‘Ban the Box and Racial Discrimination: A Review of the Evidence and Policy Recommendations’ – suggests “Ban the Box” policies that remove questions on job applications requiring applicants to disclose their criminal history may be improved with policy additions to support equal employment opportunity laws that help prevent racial discrimination.

The 34-page report co-authored by Senior Research Associate Christina Plerhoples Stacy and Research Associate Mychal Cohen explains how Ban the Box policies that delay criminal history questions gained popularity in recent years and “are intended to give people with criminal histories the opportunity to display their qualifications in the hiring process before being assessed—and potentially rejected—based on this history.”

As explained by the authors: In this report, we review the evidence on job access for people with criminal records, racial discrimination in the job market and justice system, and the history of ban the box. We also propose policy additions and alterations that may help eliminate the unintended consequences of ban the box on young black and Latino men while maintaining or improving the benefits for people with criminal records.

Some Ban the Box policy additions and alternatives suggested in the report include:

  • Increased regulation against equal employment violators and improved laws that would primarily require increased enforcement of current laws.
  • Training for employers and outreach to people with records about Ban the Box and proper use of criminal records that will raise awareness about potential unintended consequences and empower applicants to improve their own outcomes.
  • Improved quality of background check data since both Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and private background check information involve many data errors and so improvements to this information would affect many people.
  • Expungement – the erasure or elimination of criminal record history information – which helps the person in the labor market and potentially in the housing and education markets.
  • Expanded job training and employment services for justice-involved people that include expansion of current programs.
  • Require job applications to be name and address blind which would likely reduce racial discrimination between application and interview.

The report states that the “suggested changes have advantages and disadvantages, but some combination of them could even the playing field for people with criminal records without exacerbating racial biases. That said, larger frameworks and institutions need to be changed to fully address the root causes of inequality in hiring.” The complete report is available at www.urban.org/research/publication/ban-box-and-racial-discrimination.

“Ban the Box” refers to the checkbox on some job applications that applicants are asked to check if they have a criminal history. The Ban the Box movement is spreading rapidly across the United States. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), 25 states and over 150 cities and counties have Ban the Box laws to help remove barriers to employment to give qualified ex-offenders a fair chance at employment.

More Ban the Box Information from ESR

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) supports sensible Ban the Box legislation and offers employers a Ban the Box Information Page with news and legal updates about Ban the Box states, cities and counties, and resources. The ESR Ban the Box Information Page is at www.esrcheck.com/Ban-the-Box/. To read more ESR News blogs about Ban the Box, visit www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/ban-the-box/.

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