Why ‘Banning the Box’ Means Background Checks are Even More Vital

Why ‘Banning the Box’ Means Background Checks are Even More Vital


Know your employees, not how they fill out applications.

Employers are hearing more and more about “banning the box,” a movement to remove a checkbox from employment applications that discloses whether or not the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. It seems likely to catch on; seven states have specific laws in place, and increasingly major cities are passing “ban the box” laws. And it makes a thorough, careful background check all the more important.

Outside The Box

In truth, the “box” was never a useful tool. Advocates for banning the box point out, correctly, that it doesn’t inform employees about the nature of the offense, when the offense was committed, or what the nature of the conviction entailed. This is all crucial information when evaluating criminal history: After all, somebody with one drug conviction a decade ago is a substantially different applicant from somebody just released from jail after a lengthy sentence for assault and battery.

And yet, too often, the box was used as a tool for throwing away applications. Ex-convicts have reported troubling amounts of post-release discrimination, including in employment. Ex-convicts unable to find employment are more likely to resort to crime to make money, and thus are more likely to be put back into the system. It also makes it more difficult for them to put down roots, connect with family members, and maintain a stable address, all factors in recidivism and all issues municipalities across the nation struggle with.

It’s clear that the box is on the way out, especially as the states that have passed the laws can demonstrate the usefulness. But that leaves employers with a tough question; how to hire the right employees without putting their business at risk?

background-checks2Your applicants are more than their checkmarks.

Hiring Right

Part of the reason the box existed in the first place was the concept of negligent hiring. Negligent hiring, for those unfamiliar, is where a business places an incompetent or dangerous employee in their organization, and that person injures or otherwise causes problems for customers or other employees. For example, if you hire a driver who has a long record of DUI, and either don’t check his record or hire him despite that record, and they get in an accident, that may expose you to a negligent hiring suit.

By the same token, though, if you’re hiring for a desk job, while a past of DUIs might influence your decision, it doesn’t have the same bearing. This is why background checks are more important than ever.

Unlike the box, with a background check, you get a fuller picture of your applicant. You won’t just learn there’s an offense, you’ll learn the nature of the offense, when it happened, and thus will be able to make a better call about its relevance to the job. Instead of discarding the right person for the job because of a check mark, you’ll be able to look at what truly matters for any applicant.

While the box is a crutch, and you should be aware of state background check laws, a background check is a genuine tool to find the best. See for yourself: Request a free background check trial to see what we can do to help you build a better business.

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