Nationwide, over 150 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as “ban the box” so that employers consider a job candidate’s qualifications first—without the stigma of a conviction or arrest record. Borne out of the work of All of Us or None, these initiatives provide applicants a fair chance by removing the conviction history question from job applications and delaying background checks until later in the hiring process.

Momentum for the policy has grown exponentially, particularly in recent years. At the national level, President Obama endorsed ban-the-box by directing federal agencies to delay inquiries into job applicants’ records until later in the hiring process.

A total of 30 states, representing nearly every region of the country, have adopted statewide laws or policies—Arizona (2017), California (2017, 2013, 2010), Colorado (2012), Connecticut (2016, 2010), Delaware (2014), Georgia (2015), Hawaii (1998), Illinois (2014, 2013), Indiana (2017), Kentucky (2017), Louisiana (2016), Maryland (2013), Massachusetts (2010), Minnesota (2013, 2009), Missouri (2016), Nebraska (2014), Nevada (2017), New Jersey (2014), New Mexico (2010), New York (2015), Ohio (2015), Oklahoma (2016), Oregon (2015), Pennsylvania (2017), Rhode Island (2013), Tennessee (2016), Utah (2017), Vermont (2016, 2015), Virginia (2015), and Wisconsin (2016).

Ten states—California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have also mandated the removal of conviction history questions from job applications for private employers, a change that advocates embrace as the next step in the evolution of these policies.

In addition to these ten states, the District of Columbia and 31 cities and counties now extend their fair-chance hiring policies to government contractors. Seventeen of those localities—Austin, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbia (MO), the District of Columbia, Kansas City (MO), Los Angeles, Montgomery County (MD), New York City, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), Prince George’s County (MD), Rochester, San Francisco, Seattle, and Spokane—extend their fair-chance hiring laws to private employers within their jurisdictions.

More jurisdictions are also adopting policies that do more than “ban the box”; many incorporate the best practices set forth in the 2012 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions, and others adopt innovative strategies such as targeted hiring. Robust fair-chance hiring laws delay records-related inquiries until after a conditional offer of employment and ensure a fairer decision-making process by requiring employers to consider the job-relatedness of a conviction, time passed, and mitigating circumstances or rehabilitation evidence.

Tallying up the population of the states and localities that have adopted the policy, there are now over 230 million people in the United States—over two-thirds of the U.S. population—that live in a jurisdiction with some form of ban-the-box or fair-chance policy.

Fair chance policies benefit everyone because they’re good for families and the local community. At an event in Oakland for employers to discuss reentry issues, one business owner spoke to the personal benefit he finds from hiring people with records. “I’ve seen how a job makes all the difference,” says Derreck B. Johnson, founder and president of Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland. “When I give someone a chance and he becomes my best employee, I know that I’m doing right by my community.”

This resource guide documents the states, the District of Columbia, and the over 150 cities and counties—that have taken steps to remove barriers to employment for qualified workers with records. Nine states, the District of Columbia, and 29 cities and counties now extend the fair-chance policy to government contractors or private employers. Fifteen of those localities—Austin, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbia (MO), the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Montgomery County (MD), New York City, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), Prince George’s County (MD), Rochester, San Francisco, and Seattle extend their fair-chance laws to private employers in the area. A chart summarizing all the policies is at the end of this guide.

To support your state and local efforts to enact a fair-chance policy, check out NELP’s Fair Chance – Ban the Box Toolkit, which provides a step-by-step guide for advocates on how to launch a “ban the box” campaign. Embedded in the Toolkit is a range of resources to draft a law, to build your network, to support your outreach, and even to develop your media outreach. Here, are just a few of the resources:

  • A one-page factsheet, explains the basics of the policy.
  • A Best Practices and Model Policies guide provides model laws.
  • The Research Summary is a compilation of supportive research.

For additional information, contact Staff Attorney Beth Avery at bavery@nelp.org

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