In 31 U.S. states, laws prohibit job-application forms from containing a yes-no check-box that asks applicants whether they have been convicted of a crime.

“Ban the Box” advocates say that introducing the question at the initial stage of the application process gives employers an unfair way to disqualify from consideration criminals who have paid their debt to society without discussing the circumstances of the conviction, when it occurred, the individual’s rehabilitation, and the relevance of these issues to the available job.

Moreover, banning the box opens the hiring process to a larger pool of potentially qualified job-seekers, including people from communities with a high crime rate who have been victims of their social environment and are now trying to do better.

Detractors say that hiding criminal-record information at this early stage in the hiring process makes employers work harder to detect it through background checks, even for entry-level positions for which the time and expense of a background check might otherwise not be required.

Also, because laws banning the box differ from state to state, a company with multi-state operations must proceed with even greater care to avoid violating any individual state’s specific laws.

In California, Assembly Bill 1008 passed in 2017 and became effective at the start of 2018. It applies to all businesses in California with five or more employees, and prohibits employers from asking criminal-history questions until after making a conditional offer of employment.

For more information about “Ban the Box” laws — and a checklist for employers to follow — visit this Risk & Insurance magazine article.

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