Ban the Box Law Makes Employment Background Checks in Rhode Island Trickier
March 6, 2013
In Rhode Island, as we’ve seen in other states, the “ban the box” legislation has been increasing in popularity as well as enforcement. If by chance you have not heard the latest, several states have removed the check box on job applications that asks the candidate if they have been convicted of a crime-an issue we have blogged about frequently.
Recently, as reported in an article by the Brown Daily Herald, Representative Scott Slater, has been working to ban the box in the state of Rhode Island. Slater stated that applicants deserve:
“a chance to be considered on their qualifications, not immediately rejected from consideration because of a wrong decision in their past for which they have paid their debt to society.”
While this is a valid reason to remove the box from job applications, and there are many lawsuits to prove that employers have unjustly disqualified job candidates because of criminal history, I thought it might be interesting to look at one result from our 2013 Employment Screening Trends Survey, which revealed an interesting statistic based on the response of hundreds of hiring managers from a variety of industries.
Our survey revealed that 79% of respondents still ask for self-disclosure from their applicants, despite the latest EEOC guidance. Along with that, an overwhelming percentage of 52% said they would be more willing to hire a candidate who self-disclosed criminal history. In addition, 40% said that it would make no difference for their hiring decision if the applicant self-disclosed criminal history, and from that we might be able to infer that the box really doesn’t make that much of a difference, but of course this isn’t a fact, just a supposition. Of those that responded to the survey question, only 8% said they would be less likely to hire a candidate due to self-disclosure.
Even with this insight, Representative Slater’s position can’t be ignored. In every state that has moved forward with ban the box, again we must consider the reasoning behind the ban the box legislation:
- If an applicant has a criminal history, they should not be disqualified because of the record unless there is a direct relationship between the record and the job they applied for
- Enacting ban the box is meant to assist in preventing recidivism and give those with a criminal history an equal opportunity when being considered for a position
So far, no one has outwardly come out opposing the proposed bill in Rhode Island, but Bruce Reilly, a law student at Tulane University and convicted felon, stated, per the Brown Daily Herald:
“One of the main opponents of the bill was “a lobbyist who represents background check companies,” Reilly said. The companies fear the law will expose flaws in their methodology, making them vulnerable to lawsuits, he wrote.”
While this statement might be true for some background screening companies, it seems unfair to say all background screening providers have flawed methodology. Many background check companies are concerned with following EEOC guidelines and simply want to be able to provide the appropriate information to employers.
If there is opposition to this bill from background screening companies, hopefully it is because they want to provide their clients with the most accurate results in order to help them make the best hiring decision. And at times, the check box on job applications can assist them in doing so. For example, if an applicant checks the box, the employer will not be surprised by any criminal records that are uncovered in a background check and might be more willing to hire the candidate due to their disclosure.
Essentially, it should be the employment screening company’s responsibility to only report the information they are legally able, and if this is the case with most companies, I hope that Reilly is incorrect in saying that opposition from our industry is solely because companies want to avoid lawsuits.
Check out the full article:
Also download our webinar recording from our survey results webinar to hear additional results: