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If you’re a business owner or a hiring manager, you’ve heard of “ban the box” laws. As of 2019, 35 states (including Georgia), the District of Columbia and over 150 cities and counties have some form of this legislation in place. What does “ban the box” mean, and how do these policies affect your company? Let’s take a closer look.

What does “ban the box” mean?

The “box” these laws refer to is the question on most job applications that asks potential employees to disclose any prior criminal convictions. Many believe that doing so leads to discrimination, because some employers may dismiss applicants based solely on the fact that they have a criminal record. Removing the question – banning the box – will ensure that employers look at an applicant’s overall qualifications without any potential negative judgements about their past.

Shouldn’t an employer know if they’re hiring someone with a criminal record?

Banning the box doesn’t take away an employer’s right to know if their employees have a record. Most “ban the box” laws require employers to wait until later in the hiring process to inquire about criminal history; for example, after the first round of interviews or once a conditional offer is made. The idea is that applicants will be considered on their merits first, and potential criminal history second.

How does this affect my business?

Private businesses in Georgia may still inquire about an applicant’s criminal history, however, they must have either the applicant’s fingerprints or their written consent to run a criminal background check. Certain types of criminal records, such as juvenile records, dismissed charges or misdemeanor charges, may still be unavailable. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends that employers discontinue any practices or policies that exclude applicants with criminal histories. Instead, it’s best to create detailed company policies regarding criminal history that are specific and relevant to your industry.  

“Ban the box” laws vary widely from state to state. If your business operates outside of Georgia, be sure to check local policies to keep your hiring practices up to date.

Why is this important?

As an employer, you want to be certain that you’re following best practices when you’re hiring new employees. Doing so will benefit both you and your applicants; you’ll know that you’re making the most informed choice, and your applicants will know that they’re being assessed fairly.This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t run background checks on your employees – that wouldn’t be a very smart business move for us! Staying informed on current employment laws and practices protects you as a business owner or hiring manager. Knowing who you’re hiring is extremely important. We’re here to help you navigate the employee screening process, and protect you, your business, and your future employees!