Federal ‘Ban-the-Box’?

Earlier this year we posted the top employment screening trends to watch for in 2015. One trend was the ‘Ban-the-Box’ movement. This law prohibits employers from putting a “box” on employment applications asking candidates if they have ever been convicted of a crime. ‘Ban-the-box’ protects ex-offenders, and doesn’t exclude them from moving through the hiring process because of a criminal record. Currently, most ‘ban-the-box’ laws apply to public employers or government contractors in a few cities and counties. Due to some recent events, the prospect of a Federal ‘ban-the-Box’ order has gained some traction.

Approximately 200 special interest groups (labor unions and advocacy groups) joined together and wrote a letter asking President Obama to instate a ‘ban-the-box’ law for federal contractors. Many U.S. Senators are following suit and urging President Obama to take executive action.

The letter states: “Building on the momentum across the country and the rebounding economy, now is the time to take executive action to open employment opportunities for the growing number of Americans who have been unfairly locked out of the job market because of a record.” The National Employment Law Project estimates that nearly 70 million people in the United States have a criminal record. This will substantially impact hiring practices.

If President Obama does issue the ‘ban-the-box’ executive order for federal contractors, it will add to the plethora of regulations that restrict criminal background checks on job applicants and employees. This topic solicits a few questions. Although these laws are intended to increase employment opportunities for some; will employers fail to fulfill their obligations to protect their customers and businesses? Will employers end up with negligent hiring lawsuits? How will human resources professionals address these potential issues? Stay tuned.

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