Have Ban the Box Laws Reached a Tipping Point?

Date: August 26, 2015

More regulations could be in store for small businesses.

Efforts to remove job application questions about candidates’ prior crime convictions have taken root throughout the country—and small businesses are front and center as the issue continues to grow.  

“Ban the box” is a movement to remove the section on an application that asks job candidates about whether they’ve been convicted of a crime. The aim is to help make it easier for people who have been convicted to be considered for a job. But for small business owners, such legislation can lead to safety concerns, loss of property and negligence lawsuits.

“Ban the box” laws are already in place for public sector jobs in 18 states. But there is a growing national push—including as a talking point in the 2016 election cycle—to further remove such questions for both public and private sector jobs.

“It is clear we are near a tipping point,” Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, told Business News Daily last summer. 

Recently, “ban the box” legislation for private sector jobs in New Mexico passed in the State Senate, but died in the House. 

NFIB New Mexico State Director Minda McGonagle told the Albuquerque Journal that opposition to such laws is about avoiding more government regulation; it’s not about an aversion to hiring people with prior convictions.

“If a member business thinks it’s important to ask the question on an initial application, they should have that choice—and, to be clear, not all our members think it’s important and many of them don’t ask,” McGonagle said.

Furthermore, the proposed legislation also had troubling language, which McGonagle said could have led to “litigation on multiple fronts, such as employers being sued by applicants who don’t get hired, or by a customer if something goes wrong and it involved an employee with a criminal history.”

Small business owners around the country have talked about their fears of such regulations, such as those in Tennessee and Iowa.

NFIB’s efforts to oppose “ban the box” legislation were successful in states such as Washington and Louisiana. As the issue continues evolve, follow NFIB’s advocacy page for the latest news.

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