Ban the Box

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On December 3, 2018, the Westchester County Board of Legislators in New York approved a “Ban the Box” measure to ensure that ex-offenders with past criminal records have an opportunity to explain their circumstances when they are looking for work, according to a news story on the Board’s website.

The “Fair Chance to Work” legislation – which passed by a vote of 11-5 – will “Ban the Box” and eliminate questions about a job applicant’s criminal record on initial job applications. The law does allow for such questions to be asked in interviews. It also allows for background checks after the initial application.

The Ban the Box measure will help qualified ex-offenders when they apply for work even if they have been convicted for a minor offense or are working to rehabilitate themselves after a criminal conviction because an employer will first see the applicant’s qualifications and not a marked checkbox.

“The point of this legislation is to give job seekers a chance to establish a dialogue with prospective employers, not to have any dialogue cut off before it can begin,” Board Vice Chair Alfreda Williams (D – Elmsford, Greenburgh, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown), one of the measure’s co-sponsors, stated in the news story.

The Ban the Box bill was needed since finding work is one of the most important factors in reducing recidivism rates, but when initial job applications include things like check-boxes disclosing past criminal records, workers often find themselves pre-emptively cut off from opportunities to rebuild their lives.

School districts, employers of police officers, and other employers who are barred by law from hiring applicants with specific criminal convictions, would not be subject to the new measure, which goes to County Executive George Latimer for his signature. The text of the legislation is available here.

“Ban the Box” is a nationwide movement that seeks to advance job opportunities for people with prior criminal convictions. As of November 2018, more than 150 cities and counties as well as 33 states have passed Ban the box laws. In 2015, New York passed a Ban the Box law that applies to state employment.

Counties and cities in New York state that have some form of Ban the Box law include Albany County, Buffalo, Dutchess County, Ithaca, Kingston, Newburgh, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, Tompkins County, Ulster County, Rochester, Westchester County, Woodstock, and Yonkers.

The fact that employers must comply with a myriad of overlapping local and statewide Ban the Box laws in the United States is one of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2018 as selected by leading global background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR).

ESR has released a complimentary white paper entitled “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce” to help job applicants with criminal records avoid the frustrating “Catch 22” situation where they risk not finding employment whether they lie or tell the truth about their pasts.

ESR Ban the Box Resource Page

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) offers employers a Ban the Box Resource Page the contains complimentary whitepapers, infographics, and an interactive map updated with the latest Ban the Box laws. The Ban the Box Resource Page is at www.esrcheck.com/Legislative-Compliance/Ban-the-Box/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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