Ban the Box and Local Ordinances- What Employers Should Know

Lately, passing ordinances to Ban the Box has become a trend of some states and local governments.   Ban the Box has also become a controversy as these ordinances differ from one state or local government to the other, stretching and pulling the definition in various directions.   Ban the Box is a nationwide effort to remove felony conviction inquiry (“the box”) from employer job applications.  The goal of deferring inquiries of criminal history, or “banning the box”, is to allow qualified candidates with criminal history records to compete for employment more fairly. Twenty-four municipalities have approved ordinances and policies to protect employment rights for potential employees with criminal history records.  Certain municipalities, such as Kalamazoo, MI, have a minimal policy in place where the initial employment applications do not include “the box”.  Others, for example Boston, MA, do much more than “ban the box”.  Boston’s policy states that an applicant should be submitted to a background check only if there is a “good faith determination that the relevant position is of such sensitivity that it matters.”

Recently, officials in Richmond, CA have approved what is called the nation’s most comprehensive “ban the box” ordinance.  It not only removes “the box” from the initial employment application, but also does not require applicants to share their criminal history records at any point during the hiring process or after.  Jovanka Beckles, a councilwoman who introduced the ordinance, stated that the hope is to reduce unemployment and recidivism in Richmond and to “give these people who want to, a chance to make a change”.

To read more about the ordinance approved in Richmond, CA, please follow the link:

To see a city by city comparison on “ban the box” policies by The National Employment Law Project, visit