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'Ban the Box': D.C. Becomes 14th Jurisdiction to Not Question Criminal History

‘Ban the Box’ is a law that ensures the confidentiality of a person’s criminal history during the hiring process.

While the law is spreading quickly across the U.S., Washington D.C. will become the 14th jurisdiction in the country to implement these new changes.

According to a report by D.C. law firm Venable LLP., the employment statute will become effective by late 2014 or early 2015.

‘Ban the Box’ specifically refers to the banning of the criminal history check box on an employment application.  

It prohibits employers from learning a person’s criminal history before or during the time of the hiring process. A person is also exempted from answering any interview questions relevant to past arrests or criminal accusation. Furthermore, an employer is not allowed to conduct research concerning a person’s criminal background.

This law applies to both private and public establishments that employ 11 or more fulltime, part-time, temporary, or contract workers. Volunteers and trainees are also not ruled out from adhering to this new law.

The only companies and employers who are exempted from ‘ban the box’ is: 

  • Any facility or employer that provides programs, services, or direct care to minors or vulnerable adults;
  • Positions where a federal or District law or regulation requires consideration of an applicant’s criminal history;
  • Positions designated by the employer as part of a federal or District program designed to encourage employment of those with criminal histories; and
  • The District of Columbia courts 

The only time an employer is granted the permission to investigate an employee’s criminal history is when it relates to:

  • The specific duties and responsibilities of the position;
  • The bearing of the criminal offense on the applicant’s fitness or ability to perform the job;
  • The time that has elapsed since the offense;
  • The age of the applicant at the time of the offense;
  • The frequency and seriousness of the offense; and
  • Any information provided by the applicant to show that s/he has been rehabilitated.

If an employer fails to abide by the new changes, an employee can file a complaint to the DC Commission on Human Rights. If the Commission finds the employer to be in violation, the plaintiff could receive monetary reparations ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

As already provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal guidelines provide details on how an employer should handle pre-employment inquiries concerning arrests and conviction records.

What other areas have passed a ‘Ban the Box’ law?

Hawaii was the first to adopt a state-wide policy in 1998. All job applications were required to be free of any questions concerning legal convictions.

The purpose behind Hawaii’s decision was to remove any employment barriers that prevented applicants from having an equal opportunity during the hiring process.

This new initiative has now earned the full support of thirty states in the U.S.

Between 2013 and 2014, thirteen states including Delaware (2014), California (2013), Maryland (2013), and Illinois (2014) decided to make the ‘ban the box’ fair hiring law a state-wide regulation. States like Colorado (2012), Massachusetts (2010), and New Mexico (2010) already passed their version of the law months and years prior to 2013.  

Additionally, over 60 cities and counties around the nation have adopted their own policies of the law.

A full review by the National Employment Law Project provides more information on how ‘ban the box’ differs from state to state.




Image source: SnagajobNational Employment Law Project

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