Recently the City of Kalamazoo passed a new ordinance that will require “banning the box” for organizations with contracts with the city for more than $25,000, who receive tax breaks, or those who take out a development loan from the city.  Here are some FAQ’s about the box:

What does it mean to ban the box?  Banning the box simply means eliminating the check box from the employment application form that asks if a candidate has been previously arrested or convicted.

Has anyone else banned the box?  Several municipalities in Michigan (Genesee County, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Muskegon County, and Detroit) have banned the box for their own hiring.  In addition, the EEOC is strongly encourages private employers to do so as well.

Why would you ban the box?  By banning the box, proponents are hoping that otherwise qualified candidates who would have been sorted out in the initial screen, will be given consideration for jobs.  One of the biggest obstacles to individuals with a conviction is future employment.

Do we have to hire felons?  No.  Neither the EEOC nor the City of Kalamazoo require you to hire someone with a criminal record.  Both groups are simply encouraging you not to make that a primary consideration.

What’s your advice?  We are encouraging our customers to look at candidates on a case by case basis in accordance with the EEOC recommendations.  You should consider:

  • The requirements of the position. Will this position have access to valuables?  Will it have limited supervision?  Access to children, the elderly?
  • The seriousness and nature of the infraction. How does the former conviction apply to the requirements of the position?
  • Only ask about conviction records. If someone has been arrested, but was not convicted, that should not be a consideration in the hiring process.
  • The recency of the conviction. Was the conviction within the past seven years?
  • Consider the surrounding circumstances. What was involved with the conviction?

For example:  You should not hire a candidate with a recent prior conviction for assault into a position that includes unsupervised access into private residences.

We do recommend completing criminal background checks through a reputable organization using a process that is in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  This should be done once a conditional offer of employment is extended.

With today’s tight labor market, this might be the way to find that the ideal candidate for the role might be the one that you previously would have overlooked.


Image credit:  Hollywood Gazette

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