2021Ban the BoxCriminal Records
Ban the Box

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On January 28, 2021, the City of Lakeland, Florida, announced the implementation of a “Ban the Box” process to remove questions about prior criminal records of job applicants from applications, and the new process took full effect on February 1, 2021, according to a news post on the official website of the City of Lakeland.

“My goal as City Manager is to have a more diverse pool of applicants so our workforce mirrors the community’s demographics. It has been proven in other jurisdictions that similar Ban the Box initiatives bring in more applicants from minority communities,” Lakeland City Manager Shawn Sherrouse stated in the news post.

Starting February 1, 2021, Lakeland used an application that eliminated criminal record questions for positions outside of the public safety sector that used applications specific to the police and fire departments. Other cities in Florida with Ban the Box laws include Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Sarasota.

“As far as I know, Lakeland will be the first City in Polk County to initiate this type of process that will eliminate a job applicant from checking a box in regard to admitting a previous criminal conviction, and this will provide opportunities for truly reformed individuals to serve our public,” Sherrouse stated on LakelandGov.net.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published guidelines on Ban the Box – “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” – to ensure individuals are not discriminated against based on prior criminal records.

“There is a whole matrix that we use to determine if a candidate is the most qualified and we measure those risk factors that include the time elapsed since conviction, rehabilitation efforts, employment history, character, and the facts surround the criminal offense” Sherrouse added, referring to the EEOC’s Ban the Box guidelines.

Criminal history questions were removed from the City’s initial hiring process and job candidates with a criminal offense will not be judged when submitting an application. Instead, criminal background checks will allow the City to plug factors surrounding the situation into the matrix and determine if an applicant is qualified for the position.

“There are pros and cons to Ban the Box initiatives but we believe the pros far outweigh the cons,” Sherrouse stated in the news post. “We will increase our pool of applicants, provide a second chance for qualified individuals, and open our job market to those that made a mistake but paid their dues to society.”

Ban the Box legislation started in 1998 with Hawaii being the first state to pass a law restricting employers from asking about a job candidate’s criminal record prior to a job offer. Since then, legislation has been enacted in 36 states and more than 150 municipalities, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Data provided by the EEOC shows that criminal histories are impacting the ability to hire minorities because arrest rates are higher with African American and Hispanic males at rates up to three times their proportion of the general population. NELP estimates that 70 million U.S. adults have an arrest or conviction record.

“Ban the Box” laws and Second Chance Programs that help allow ex-offenders with a prior criminal record an opportunity to find work will continue to evolve, according to leading global background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), which compiled the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2021.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – which was named the #1 screening firm in 2020 by HRO Today – offers a white paper on “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce,” an “ESR Ban the Box Resource Guide,” and a Ban the Box Resource Page. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

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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