“Ban the Box” Law Prohibits Inquiries of Criminal History

Shannon HudspethEmployee Benefits, Human Resources

On June 1st, Connecticut Governor Malloy signed House Bill 5237, An Act Concerning Fair Chance Employment. This new law is referred to as the “Ban the Box” bill.

Effective January 1st, 2017, Connecticut employers will be prohibited from asking about criminal history (including prior arrests, convictions and charges) on job applications. Connecticut is now the 19th state to adopt this type of legislation.

The law applies to any employer with one or more employees, including the state (and any political subdivisions of the state). However, it does not apply to job applications of independent contractors.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission collected data that shows that 92% of employers perform criminal background checks on job candidates, and that a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a job offer (and even just a callback) by more than 50%.

The EEOC asserts that the criminal history box on an application allows employers to instate blanket policies to disregard any applicant with a criminal history. Further, they claim these practices disproportionally affect minority applicants, which violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The new law is designed to enhance the protections of people with criminal or legally-troubled pasts. Throughout the United States, more than 100 million people (about a third of the population) have criminal records.

There are two exceptions to this new law. An employer may ask about an applicant’s criminal history on a form if they are otherwise required to by state or federal law. They may also ask about criminal history if any kind of security, fidelity or money bond is required for the position.

Similar “Ban the Box” laws in other states typically prevent the employer from inquiring about criminal information until a certain point in the hiring process. However, Connecticut’s law only prohibits a criminal history inquiry on the initial application. Employers may ask questions about an applicant’s history at any point forward, including during the interview. The interviewer may also run a background check on an applicant and ask any questions they like, even regarding expunged and erased convictions.

The law establishes a “Fair Chance Task Force” that will study employment opportunities available to individuals with criminal histories and may recommend further statutory restrictions.

The law is a victory for anyone whose past has been marred with any type of convictions or arrests. It allows them to display their credentials to prospective employers before being forced to reveal their criminal past.

Employers should take a few steps to ensure compliance with the “Ban the Box” law: 1) Remove any language regarding criminal histories from job applications and advertisements. 2) Provide training to employees who conduct hiring to teach them when it is acceptable to make inquiries into criminal histories of applicants. 3) Audit the hiring process to ensure the compliance and timing of inquiries into criminal histories.

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director

“Ban the Box” Law Prohibits Inquiries of Criminal History