An increasingly common piece of legislation is making its way across the country. Bills proposing bans on questions of criminal histories on job applications are gaining steam in the United States, both at a state and local level, with the most recent instances occurring in North Carolina and St. Paul.
Statewide ban proposed
Recently, North Carolina lawmakers filed House Bill 208 in the state's assembly, which would effectively stop employers from considering criminal histories during the application process. Titled the "Ban the Box Act," the term comes from eliminating application boxes candidates would check to indicate they have a criminal history, the legislation would prohibit employers from inquiring as to whether an applicant has been convicted of a criminal offense.
The only time employers would be able to do so would be after the business makes a conditional offer of employment or "the granting of employment may involve an unreasonable risk" to safety of others.
If approved, any employer found in violation of the act would be fined $100 for each offense.
"I'm not saying that employers shouldn't be aware of criminal backgrounds, but there should be a way for people to get a foot in the door first," said Marcus Brandon, who introduced the bill.
According to the National Employment Law Project, if passed, the bill would have North Carolina join the likes of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Mexico as those that have enacted statewide ban-the-box legislation. New Jersey lawmakers also recently submitted proposed legislation that would ban the box at a state level.
St. Paul looks to extend ban-the-box policy to private employers
While Minnesota enforces a statewide ban-the-box policy, it only applies to public employers, as stipulated by the bill signed into law by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2009. St. Paul had already banned the box in applications for public employers under a 2008 executive order issued by its mayor.
Recently, however, the St. Paul City Council voted 6-1 in favor of updating the city's regulatory agenda to include support for bills currently being debated that would expand the ban-the-box requirements to private employers.
The Star Tribune reported Council Member Melvin Carter III, who sponsored the resolution, also intends to introduce another resolution that would apply the city's policy to contractors and vendors working with the city.
Background checks are a integral process to the pre-employment phase, but increasingly, employers have seen their ability to consider criminal offenses in applications diminish. As such, it's vital businesses work with an HR service provider to ensure compliance in all manner of hiring processes.