150 cities and counties and 24 states have now adopted "ban the box" policies. The jurisdictions encompass 206 million people, roughly two-thirds of the United States.
A handful of recent studies have asserted that ban-the-box policies are in fact detrimental to job applicants they are supposed to be helping. Research published in the Harvard Law Review and a University of Michigan Law School paper argue that the policies exacerbate "statistical discrimination" in hiring -- that is, if employers can't find out upfront which of their job applicants have criminal records, then they will assume that the Black and Latino applicants have criminal records and avoid calling them back.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) makes a good case to be very weary of the studies' conclusions:
Our review of the studies leads us to these top-line conclusions: (1) The core problem raised by the studies is not ban-the-box but entrenched racism in the hiring process, which manifests as racial profiling of African Americans as “criminals.” (2) Ban-the-box is working, both by increasing employment opportunities for people with records and by changing employer attitudes toward hiring people with records. (3) When closely scrutinized, the new studies do not support the conclusion that ban-the-box policies are responsible for the depressed hiring of African Americans. (4) The studies highlight the need for a more robust policy response to both boost job opportunities for people with records and tackle race discrimination in the hiring process—not a repeal of ban-the-box laws.
In following the lead of a growing number of cities and municipalities, Tacoma acknowledged the obvious: People with a criminal conviction on their records have a difficult time finding employment, and that has consequences for folks trying to overcome their pasts and turn their lives around, and for our community as a whole.
From the Vermont Governor's press release:
The bill (H.261), prohibits employers from asking questions about prior criminal convictions on an initial job application, allowing applicants to be judged on their work history and qualifications rather than on a mistake made in their past. Employers will still be allowed to ask questions in later stages of the hiring process and the law provides exemptions for certain positions where a criminal conviction would automatically disqualify an applicant due to state or federal law.
The army doesn't allow ex-felons to serve anymore, but for a period of time they did. And researchers were able to study the former felons' performances on their jobs. Employers should consider the results of the study. Link to the audio is below:
Austin is getting in on the act, he first city to do so in the south. Noteworthy were the comments from one of the Austin council members immediately following the vote:
Council Member Pio Renteria spoke of his own family’s experience with the criminal justice system. He said that his older brother, who was released from prison at 32 after spending most of his youth behind bars, is now 68, and has never made more than $10/hour. He said that two other of his brothers had also been in prison, and had never recovered from the experience. Renteria’s son, who went to jail when he was younger, has gone on to become the manager of a grocery store. “That’s what a second chance does for you,” Renteria said.
It sounds fantastic: a homeless man, who can't get a job due to a record that comes up in background checks, finally gets a second chance with a lucrative employment offer:
The leap Simmons is trying to make — from shelter to six-figure, white-collar world — is almost unheard of in the social-services realm. His story was featured in The Seattle Times two Sundays ago under the headline: “Being homeless a struggle — even with a $100,000 job offer.”
With ban-the-box legislation, maybe stories like this will become more common.
WW Hardware LLC
Zip Zone, Conoco Convenience Store
The Law Office of
President of Spokane City Council**
**For identification purposes only