What Is Ban The Box?

Ban the box is a legal movement that calls for banning the question "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" from job applications.

The Ban-the-Box movement urges lawmakers at the federal, state, county, and local level to reduce barriers to employment for the 70 million people in the U.S. who have criminal records.

Removing questions about criminal history from job applications prevents employers from screening out otherwise qualified candidates on the basis of a criminal record alone. This kind of screening affects minorities disproportionately and, therefore, can lead to unintended discrimination.

Does Ban The Box Prevent Employers From Doing Background Checks?

No. Instead, Ban-the-Box laws generally regulate when employers can ask applicants if they have ever been convicted of a crime. In jurisdictions with Ban-the-Box laws, employers are often required to hold off on asking any questions about an applicant’s criminal history (if any), until an offer of employment has been presented to the applicant.  

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) – a federal agency responsible for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, and other categories – supports Ban-the-Box legislation.

EEOC guidelines also allow employers to investigate an applicant’s criminal history as long as they consider:

  • The type and severity of the offense
  • The age of the convictions and/ or completion of the sentence
  • The nature of the job the applicant is being considered for

Where Ban-The-Box Laws Apply

Ban-the-Box laws are not everywhere. In places where no Ban-the-Box laws exist (or don’t cover a certain size or type of company), you may still see the criminal history question on a job application.

Additionally, there are differences in the specific requirements of these laws, which means that requirements can vary from one jurisdiction to another.

As of January 2017, 24 states and more than 150 cities and counties have adopted Ban-the-Box laws. In some places, the laws only apply to public sector employers. In other places, both public and private employers must comply. You can find an up-to-date list of Ban-the-Box laws here.

Disclaimer: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have questions regarding your background check or a particular record we advise you consult legal counsel.