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'Ban the Box' Movement: What Employers Should Know

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 19, 2015 10:55 AM

Where did you attend school? How many jobs have you had? Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

Advocates of the "Ban the Box" movement are working to remove that last question from job applications. As a small business owner and employer, how could this affect you?

Ban The Box Movement

According to the National Employment Law Project, over 70 million Americans have conviction records. With nearly 90 percent of employers conducting criminal background checks during the hiring process, many of those 70 million are unable to secure jobs.

The Ban the Box movement, more formally known as the Fair Chance movement, aims to remove questions about criminal histories from job applications to give ex-convicts a chance to be considered based on their merits rather than their conviction record.

Fair Chance Laws

Currently the federal government, 17 states, and over 100 cities and counties nationwide have fair chance legislation.

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco's Fair Chance Ordinance, passed in February, 2014, applies to employers with 20 or more employees. The ordinance requires that employers can only consider criminal convictions in hiring decisions if the conviction is directly related to job requirements. Employers must also take into consideration the age of the conviction, mitigating factors, and rehabilitation.


Hawaii was the first state to pass a fair chance law that applies to both private and public employers.

This law prohibits employers from enquiring about conviction records until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. Also, an offer can only be withdrawn if a conviction was within 10 years and affects the employee's ability to do the job.


Maryland's law applies only to state employers. State employers are prohibited from inquiring into an applicant's criminal history until after the applicant has had a chance to interview with the employer.

While you are not required to hire a person if they truly are not qualified, in many jurisdictions with fair chance laws, you cannot reject an applicant solely because of a conviction. Check your local laws and consult with an experienced business attorney to ensure that your hiring practices are in compliance with any fair chance legislation.

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