State Ban The Box Laws


ban the boxIf criminal background checks are part of your hiring process, you need to pay attention to your state’s “Ban the Box” Laws. Failure to do so can set you up for a hefty fine or costly lawsuit.

A Ban the Box Law basically sets restrictions on when you can inquire about a job applicant’s criminal history. Most State Ban the Box laws outlaw making inquiries at the onset of the interview process. However, the exact point at which you can legally make inquiries differs from one State to another.

For instance, in Hawaii, you can ask about an applicant’s criminal records only after extending to them a conditional offer. In Massachusetts, you can make an inquiry after the initial interview.

Other points at which you can make an inquiry include: after initial screening of applicants, after selection for the first interview, and during the initial interview. Different laws set different restrictions.

Besides differing on when criminal background checks can be legally used, the laws also differ on who is subject to it. For an employer to be subject to it, they have to have a minimum number of employees. For instance, in Hawaii, the minimum is 1 employee; in Rhode Island the minimum is 4; and in New Jersey, the minimum is 15 employees.

Any employer who whose number of employees falls below the minimum is exempt from the Ban the Box law. Other exemptions include positions where criminal background checks are mandated by other laws. Also, most laws make exemptions for positions where a criminal record precludes employment. The exact categories of exemptions are spelled out in each Ban the Box law.

The State Ban the Box laws come with different names. For instance, New Jersey’s Ban the Box law is called the “The Opportunity to Compete Act.” The Illinois law is called the “Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act.” Basically, every state has its own version of the Ban the Box Law.

However, States aren’t the only jurisdictions which have Ban the Box laws. Some cities and municipalities also have their own laws. In fact, two cities within the same state can have slightly different laws. For instance, in Buffalo, NY, the minimum number of employees required to be subject to the law is 15. In Rochester, NY, the minimum is 4.

The bottom line is that Ban the Box laws can differ from one jurisdiction to another – even within the same state. Therefore, before you conduct criminal background checks during your interview process, make sure you understand the subtleties of the different laws.

This is especially critical for employers who have operations in different States or cities. Sometimes, such employers carry out recruitment centrally. This includes centralizing the criminal background checks. In such situations, the possibility of inadvertently violating a Ban the Box law can occur.

Therefore, before you conduct criminal background checks during recruitment, it is important to find out if your jurisdiction has a Ban the Box law. In case it doesn’t, when well and good. If it does, please read through the law, and make sure you follow its provisions.

To simplify your search, below is a list of the States and cities which currently have a Ban the Box law.

Below describes “when” an employer may ask about criminal histories:

Ban The Box By State

Ban the Box by City

¹ As of May 6, 2015, the 7 state include: Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C.