Ban The Box

The Ban the Box Movement

What is Ban the Box?

Though Ban the Box has just recently gotten wings and taken off across the United States, the movement actually began in 2004.  All of Us or None, an organization which fights for the rights of those who were previously, or are presently incarcerated, started the campaign to remove the roadblocks that people with a criminal history face when seeking employment.

What Box?

It may be just one box on what can often be a several page job application, but for many it has felt like a sign that says “Don’t hire me”. The little box which asks if the applicant has any prior criminal convictions has often been the determination of if the application will even be reviewed.

Advocates of the campaign believe that this one box has kept thousands of people from obtaining employment despite their qualifications. Though some sources have reported as many as one-third of working adults having a criminal conviction, it often still carries a stigma in the job force.


Oftentimes the embarrassment of a criminal history, even a minor infraction, causes the applicant to lie on the application, hoping that their secret won’t be revealed. This leads to a catch-22 situation.

If an applicant withholds information about their criminal history, a background check ran by the potential employer will reveal it. This then is usually the end of the line for that applicant. Failure to divulge information or outright lying is cause enough to have their resume thrown out.

On the other hand, if an applicant marks that little box with an X, it has often led to their resume being thrown out as well.


While the Ban the Box movement officially began organizing in 2004, Hawaii, the first state to remove the box from job applications, actually did so in 1998. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that other states began adopting the policy. NELP (National Employment Law Project) reports that as of April, 2016, 23 states have currently accepted Ban the Box policies.

What it Means

Ban the Box does not completely remove the ability of employers to ask about criminal history. What it does, is move the question to later in the hiring process. Proponents believe that delaying the question allows more potential job candidates to have their application reviewed based solely on their skills and qualifications, thereby giving them a greater chance at getting the job.

In 2012 the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) clarified its hiring guidelines, calling for “individualized assessment” for any criminal convictions of a job candidate. This means that the conviction must be assessed based on the severity and relevance to the job.

A New Age

Since the EEOC has gotten involved, employers must take greater caution when screening potential employees. An abundance of lawsuits against violators of the new policies have cost companies millions of dollars.

Most recently, the U.S. Census Bureau got caught in the cross-hairs and was ordered to pay $15 million in a class-action suit for discriminating against applicants with criminal histories.

Intended Consequences

Ban the Box wants to allow for equal opportunities to those who have been convicted of a crime in the past. Statistics have shown that re-incarceration rates among ex-convicts who have been unable to find sustainable employment are extremely high. Ban the Box hopes to reintegrate ex-convicts into society and allow them to earn a living, thereby reducing the chance of any further criminal infractions.

Unintended Consequences

The intention of Ban the Box is to remove the discrimination factor associated with prior convictions among adults. While this seems cut and dry, some fear that the movement will cause unintended consequences.

A recent article in the Urban Institute outlines the fear that removing the box will lead to “statistical discrimination”. This means that employers could potentially use statistical averages when deciding on a potential employee. Black Americans have the greatest disadvantage because statistically, incarceration rates are higher among this group.

A Work in Progress

Ban the Box may not be perfect but it is still a work in progress. As new cities and states roll out policies pertaining to the movement, flaws will most certainly be found. Government agencies and employers alike will be taxed with the continuous improvement of a movement that is not going away any time soon.

Employers must still follow due-diligence when looking at potential employees. Background checks are an important part of this process. Sentinel Background Checks is a professional background check service that can guide employers through the hiring process to ensure they follow FCRA guidelines. Call (888) 725-2535 today to see how we can help!