“Ban-the-Box” laws are those that prohibit an employer from asking about a job applicant’s criminal convictions, on a job application. These laws have been enacted in 13 states, and almost 70 cities. Some apply to public employees only; others apply to both the public and private sectors
The theory behind these statutes is that they reduce unfair barriers to employment for those with criminal records, and that an employer’s unwillingness to hire anyone with a criminal record may tend to have a disparate impact on minority applicants.
Where ban-the box laws apply, it is expected that an employer will make a conditional job offer to an applicant, without having inquired about his or her criminal past. The inquiry can then be made later in the hiring process, and if a criminal conviction is disclosed, it will then be up to the employer to decide if the conviction disqualifies the candidate for the position.
Some easy examples: a convicted embezzler need not be hired as a bookkeeper; a convicted child abuser need not be hired at a day care center; but someone convicted of assault in a bar-room brawl should not be disqualified from a job as a warehouse worker. How long ago an applicant’s conviction occurred will also be a relevant factor for an employer to consider.
The Columbia ordinance, which was enacted on December 1st, is the first in the state of Missouri to apply to both public and private employers. (St. Louis and Kansas City ordinances apply to public employers only.) It makes Columbia one of only 11 counties or cities in the country that “ban -the-box” for private employers. Six states have similar laws.