ban the boxEmployers have to weigh many decisions when they are involved in the hiring process. They have to find the right fit when choosing a new employee. Among the data gathered is past employment history, which can be evidence of experiences and skills, as well as provide a pattern of gainful employment. In addition, employers regularly check references, using the reference check to  discern a potential employee’s past job performance, often making quick decisions as to whether the references’ statements appear accurate and indicative of future performance possibilities.

In the news lately is the topic of “Ban the Box”. Ban the box refers to eliminating a “box” that must be checked in an employment application that asks whether or not the applicant has a criminal history. Proponents of Ban the Box maintain that a large number of American adults have had contact with the criminal justice system.  In fact, the United States Justice Department maintains that 25% of American adults have some sort of criminal misdeed that would show up in a routine background check.

Municipalities have been at the forefront of the Ban the Box movement, arguing that they needed to show leadership in order to encourage private entities to hire those with arrests or convictions.

In the state of Michigan, the following locales have officially banned the box in their hiring: the cities of Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing and Kalamazoo as well as Genesee County and Muskegon County.

Ban the Box initiatives are one part of the background check experience. Detroit, for instance, does not conduct background checks regularly, unless the job description requires it. Ann Arbor does not conduct the background check until offering employment, but still makes the background check part of the conditional employment process. Both Ann Arbor and Detroit have official city language stating that past conviction history does not bar someone from employment with their respective cities.

Many private employers also have background checks but only engage certain aspects of it when the job is sensitive and requires it. These background checks must be conducted with the potential employee’s permission and the applicant should receive written notification that the background check will occur. Industry certifications may require background checks particularly for employees who have job duties that include personal care or dealing with money or financial instruments. In addition, some employers run credit checks, particularly if their employees’ performance could be in jeopardy with high debt or even payouts for lawsuits. Clearly, background checks to rule out a history of violence are needed in order to protect the employer from potential lawsuits, were the employee to injure a client, customer or fellow employee.

When an employer conducts a background check and then makes a determination not to hire the employee, based upon information gleaned from the background check, the employer should do the following:

  • Notify the job applicant of the reason for their rejection.
  • Be prepared to provide the applicant a copy of the report and the name of the company who conducted the check and their contact information.
  • Allow the applicant to comment on the information, refuting it if necessary, and include their remarks in their file.