RELEASE: New Report Finds More Must Be Done to Fully and Effectively Implement Policies that Help Prevent Labor Discrimination Against Individuals with a Criminal Record

Washington, D.C. — Each year, more than 600,000 people are released from federal and state prisons in need of jobs that provide economic security. A criminal record can be a major barrier to employment, particularly for returning citizens of color. To alleviate the effects of having a criminal record, 29 states to date have adopted so-called ban the box policies, which require employers to remove the box on a job applications that asks about an applicant’s criminal record and hold off on performing a background check.

As part of a continuing effort to promote fair chance hiring policies such as ban the box, a new report published today by the Center for American Progress examines the extent to which federal contractors have implemented ban the box and other fair chance policies, as well as provides recommendations for states, localities, the federal government, and employers to further and more effectively implement fair chance policies.

The report’s findings suggest that employers could be implementing ban the box more effectively, reducing the likelihood of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which covers employment discrimination, and that policymakers should go beyond ban the box to implement other fair chance policies, such as record-clearing.

“A comprehensive suite of fair chance hiring policies would ensure that people with criminal records have equitable access to labor market opportunities,” said Angela Hanks, associate director for workforce development policy at CAP and author of the report. “While ban the box can help ensure that employers evaluate candidates not on their criminal history but on their ability to get the job done, it’s essential that employers take steps to ensure that they’re fully and effectively implementing fair chance hiring policies.”

The popularity of fair chance policies, such as ban the box, has grown in recent years, due in part to a bipartisan push to unwind the policies that have led to mass incarceration and overcriminalization over the past several decades. They are a key part of a broader effort to reform the nation’s broken criminal justice system.

The report’s recommendations for states, localities, and the federal government include:

  • Adopting ban the box legislation in states that have not already adopted it
  • Establishing ban the box policies that cover both public and private employers
  • Increasing employment opportunities for returning citizens
  • Implementing legislation or guidance on expungement and record-sealing
  • Ensuring returning citizens have access to essential supportive services
  • Facilitating peer-to-peer networks to help employers devise, share, and implement EEOC best practices

For employers, the report recommends:

  • Allowing applicants to more easily review their background checks for accuracy
  • Allowing applicants to provide evidence of rehabilitation or mitigation, such as evidence of compliance with their terms of probation or parole or letters from community members
  • Fully adopting EEOC best practices

Click here to read Ban the Box and Beyond: Ensuring Individuals with a Criminal Record Have Access to the Labor Market by Angela Hanks.

For more information or to speak with an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202-741-6258.