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Attorneys William R. Christoph & Nicholas W. Christoph

New Ban-the-Box Legislation Could Improve the Job Prospects of Hundreds of Thousands of Californians

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2017

“Studies show that when a person checks the box on an initial application, their likelihood of a callback drops…” – Beth Avery

70 million sounds like a big number, and it is.

That’s the number of people who have been convicted of a crime in America, be it a misdemeanor or a felony, according to a report by NPR. And of those 70 million people, many of them (if not a substantial majority) presumably face the challenge of finding gainful post-conviction employment.

Ticking the box on a job application asking whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime all but guarantees that you won’t get the job – or, at least, guarantees slimmer chances.

Beth Avery is a lawyer with the National Employment Law Project, interviewed on NPR because of her involvement on California’s new ban-the-box legislation, which, as the name implies, prohibits employers from requiring applicants to tick the box (although employers can still dig into criminal history later in the process).

“It really comes down to the dignity of people with records,” Avery said, “and how it feels and how much it impacts their lives to be turned away at step one when they submit application after application.”

Opposition to banning the box

Opposition to ban-the-box efforts largely centers on employers’ reduced discretion in hiring. One opinion (published in Forbes in 2014) gave the hypothetical example of an employer stymied from asking questions about criminal history up front.

In this example, the employer loses its chance to hire the runner-up applicant, who went to a competing employer in the extra time it took to identify the risk of hiring the first applicant – who has a history of drunk driving, but who wasn’t required to check the box.

While this could theoretically happen, this view presumes that employers already give such applicants a fair shake. “There’s no reason to think that many employers don’t already consider these and other factors,” opines the Forbes writer, referring to evidence of rehabilitation as one factor an employer might consider in offering the applicant a job.

But we wouldn’t bet on it.

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