January 3 Tip of the Week

“New Year, Fresh Start”

As we begin a new calendar year, it is important to review your policies and handbooks to make sure that they are up to date and in compliance with all new and old labor and employment laws.  One law that seems particularly relevant as we set new year resolutions in an effort to improve ourselves is the “ban the box” rule. 

Initially established by state and local laws and regulations applicable to public sector employment, several states and localities have extended these rules to private employers.  Ban the box means that employers cannot ask job applicants questions regarding their criminal conviction history or arrest records as part of the hiring process. 

These rules, often called “fair chance hiring laws,” are intended to give individuals who have a criminal history a better opportunity at being hired for various positions by prohibiting employers from considering an applicants’ criminal record until after a conditional job offer is made.  In essence, these laws give individuals with a record an opportunity for a fresh start by leveling the playing field in the application process. 

This expands on previous rules which have required employers to analyze whether an applicant’s criminal conviction is sufficiently job related to disqualify the individual from the position for which they are applying.  The typical example of a disqualifying criminal conviction record is the Controller who has been convicted of embezzlement.  However, under the old rules many employers, when faced with an applicant who has a criminal record – regardless of the nature of the conviction or its relationship to the job applied for – will not consider that individual for employment.  This expansion of ban the box to private employers is designed to overcome that bias in hiring. 

As we begin the new year, employers should review their hiring practices to ensure that they are not running afoul of the ban the box rules.  These rules are in place in 35 states and 150 cities and counties for public sector employers and in 15 states and 22 cities and counties for private sector employers. 

Please contact MyHRCounsel for on advice and guidance to ensure that your hiring materials, policies and processes are in compliance with these rules.