By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer 

According to a recent report from the National League of Cities (NLC) and National Employment Law Project (NELP), an increasing number of cities have decided to “ban the box” and remove questions on job applications asking about criminal records.

The July 2010 report – “Cities Pave the Way: Promising Reentry Policies that Promote Local Hiring of People with Criminal Records” – features 23 cities and counties that have chosen to “ban the box” on their job applications that asks about an applicant’s criminal record, and defer the criminal background check to the final stages of the hiring process.

The report states that since San Francisco chose to “ban the box” from job applications in 2004, 22 other cities and counties have enacted similar ordinances or policies. The report notes that five cities – Bridgeport, CT; Hartford, CT; Kalamazoo, MI; Memphis, TN; and Worcester, MA – have joined the “ban the box” movement in the past year. As of the July 2010 report, the “ban the box” policy has now been adopted by 23 cities and counties across the country. These cities and counties include (in alphabetical order):

  • Alameda County, CA
  • Austin, TX
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Boston, MA
  • Bridgeport, CT
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Hartford, CT
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Kalamazoo, MI
  • Memphis, TN
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Multnomah County, OR
  • New Haven, CT
  • Norwich, CT
  • Oakland, CA
  • Providence, RI
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • St. Paul, MN
  • Travis County, TX
  • Worcester, MA

In addition, the report also notes the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has concluded that “an absolute bar to employment based on the mere fact that an individual has a conviction record is unlawful under Title VII.” Any examination of applicant criminal records by employers must be job-related and consider the following:

  • Is the applicant’s offense substantially related to the job in question?
  • Has the employer has considered the nature and gravity of the applicant’s offense?
  • Is the time that has passed since the conviction or the completion of the applicant’s sentence sufficient?

With more cities, counties, and even states considering the adoption of the “ban the box” policy that removes questions regarding criminal records of job applicants from initial job applications, employers should revisit their policies on using criminal records during employment background checks to remain compliant with federal, state, and local laws.

For more information on the use of criminal records during employment background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at