Should you 'Ban the Box' at your company?

In my work with human resources professionals and business owners, I have the opportunity to explore many of the issues that surface in the hiring process. Most recently, a discussion centered around "Ban the Box." Does your company have “ban the box” on its application? If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s the check box that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?” I am curious to know how you feel about this relatively new policy.

That box should be checked more than you might think. According to the Department of Labor, roughly one in three Americans has a criminal record. This can be an arrest that does not lead to a conviction, a conviction with no incarceration, or a conviction of a non-violent crime, in addition to more serious crimes. Criminal offenses are skewed along racial lines as well. According to the Pew Center on the States, one in 106 white men, one in 36 Hispanic men, and one in 15 African American men are incarcerated.

The “Ban the Box” movement – an international campaign that calls for removing the checkbox on applications in order to give people with past convictions a fair chance when applying for a job – has been gaining a lot of momentum lately. In November, President Obama called on federal agencies to ban the box for federal government applicants, saying that the government "should not use criminal history to screen out applicants before we even look at their qualifications."

What Ban the Box Isn’t

Banning the box does not mean that you cannot ask applicants about any criminal record during the interview process, or that background checks cannot be done. It simply advocates removing the checkbox on the application, which is generally used as a screening tool. According to advocates of Ban the Box, the removal of the checkbox gives applicants the chance to be interviewed and evaluated for their current skills and ability to perform the job, rather than being discriminated against upfront.

Currently 18 states have passed ban-the-box laws, and many others are considering it. The Ban the Box movement is gaining momentum in the private sector as well, with many major employers like Koch Industries, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Target and Walmart joining in.

Should You Ban the Box?

If you have a criminal record checkbox on your company’s application, must you remove it? Well, that may depend on where your business is located.  Several states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island, and some municipalities, such as Washington D.C. and New York City, have passed laws banning the box.  It is anticipated that more will follow. 

But even if your business is not situated in one of these states or localities, you may still wish to consider taking such action as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing many of the nation’s anti-discrimination laws, has endorsed removing this question from job applications.    

Banning the box may also be good business.

Implementing this policy does not prohibit or limit an employer’s ability to conduct a preemployment background check though the Fair Chance Law. And as many criminal offenses involve misdemeanors, such as traffic violations and public intoxication, which may have no impact on a person’s ability to perform the job, it may increase the pool of candidates from which to choose the best and most qualified individual.

As we head into the new year, I am interested to hear your thoughts about “Ban the Box.” Share your thoughts and experiences below.


My team and I are preparing our 2016 financial education seminars for our popular Lunch and Learn program. This is an opportunity for you to provide a tasty benefit for your employees! Learn more about the topics we will be offering, and find out how these short programs can benefit your employees. They are free – and we bring lunch!

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About Author

Maria Porto
Maria Porto

Maria Porto is Hanscom FCU's assistant vice president of partner relations. She may be reached at

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