What Ban-the-Box Laws Mean for Employers

Over the past several years, more than 33 states and 150 cities have created laws prohibiting employers from asking applicants if they have ever been convicted of a crime. These laws are called “ban-the-box” rules and businesses must shift their hiring practices to meet the requirements of the laws. As Congress considers a federal ban-the-box law, called the “Fair Chance Act,” let’s dig into what the law could mean, how it could impact your business and how to keep your hiring process compliant.

Origin of ban-the-box laws

Job applications often include the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Check yes or no.” That leaves the 60–70 million Americans who have a criminal record no choice but to check the “yes” box. Employers have used this question to narrow down their applicant pool without knowing the specifics or timing of candidate’s crime. Because of this hiring practice, those with criminal records have high unemployment rates, and studies show ex-offenders who do not find work are much more likely to commit another crime.

Ban-the-box laws have been introduced across the country to keep employers from asking about criminal history in initial job applications. Under these laws, it is illegal to disqualify an applicant from consideration just because they have a criminal record. Employers must at least know an applicant’s offenses to make an informed hiring decision.

Organizations working in security or with vulnerable populations are generally exempt from ban-the-box laws.

How you can meet ban-the-box requirements

Compliance with these kinds of laws and secure hiring practices are absolutely not mutually exclusive. With slight adjustments to your organization’s processes, you can build a safe workforce and in accordance with the law.

If necessary, update your organization’s application forms—removing criminal history questions and making sure outdated applications are completely inaccessible. You may also need to train your hiring managers how to handle applications and interviews to stay ban-the-box compliant.

Even if a state or city does not have a ban-the-box law, it is becoming more common for companies to voluntarily remove criminal record questions from applications. If your organization chooses not to ask upfront about criminal history but still needs to consider criminal offenses, decide when in the hiring process would be best to inquire about a background check.

To give all applicants a fair chance and make informed hiring choices, partner with a background check agency giving you a comprehensive report of applicants’ criminal records. Background reports will show you what crimes an applicant was convicted of, how long ago the crimes were and how relevant they are to your organization.

With the assistance of background checks, you can accommodate ban-the-box laws and make the best possible hiring choices for your team. Contact our Client Relations team to learn more about criminal background checks and how One Source can help you.

Questions Nonprofits Should Ask About Background Checks

Nonprofit organizations solve problems, enrich communities and advocate for social good. The altruistic nature of many nonprofits’ work includes consistent interaction with vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and people with disabilities. In order for nonprofits to protect the people they serve and expand their mission, they must do everything in their power to ensure safety and honesty in their staff and volunteer base. 

One way nonprofits can promote security is by background checking all of their workers, both paid and volunteer. By screening everyone who would like to associate with a nonprofit, leadership can more carefully select those representing the organization and place more trust in its team members. Before any nonprofit initiates a screening policy, it should clarify these questions nonprofits should ask about background checks with a screening agency.

What background information do nonprofits need to know?

A criminal history check is the baseline screening every organization should run on their applicants. Different organizations may require more specialized checks like driving records or certifications, but background check agencies can easily bundle those screenings with criminal checks. One Source provides county, state, multi-court and federal criminal checks as well as searches of the National Sex offender Registry and global watchlists in its standard TotalCheck package.

TotalCheck provides a full picture of an applicant’s criminal history, and One Source can include additional checks if necessary. You should identify screenings that may be relevant to your nonprofit—driving history, child abuse registries, drug screening or others.

How can a nonprofit create an ideal screening program?

Background checks are just one piece of an entire resource toolkit nonprofits should use to promote a safe environment. By developing and implementing a security program, you can supplement the information from background checks and further build credibility. Safety should be an expectation integral to a nonprofit’s organizational culture.

All team members should be screened every few years so you can stay up to date on the status of everyone associated with your organization. Subsequent screenings paired with educational materials demonstrating how safety is imperative to your mission should help create a transparent culture of security. When staff and volunteers join your nonprofit with the understanding of regular screenings, they will be more open to all security measures. One Source has screening programs designed just for nonprofits to allow consistent screening and stay within budget with special nonprofit pricing.

What if a background report raises concerns?

In order to disqualify applicants ethically and consistently, create a code of expectations your nonprofit follows when reviewing background reports. Determine what offenses do and do not exclude applicants from participating in your organization and stick to that plan. If you need assistance in deciding how your nonprofit will interpret reports, One Source can help.

If you decide not to hire an employee or volunteer based on the results of their background check, you must follow (pre) adverse action requirements and notify them in writing of as quickly as possible. Provide context for your reasoning and give the applicant the contact information of your screening agency so the agency can handle any disputes the applicant may file.

You should be able to focus on doing good without having to worry about their team members. Nonprofit screening solutions with One Source can help your organization stay safe even on a budget. Contact One Source Client Relations to learn more.

Your Fair Credit Reporting Act compliance crash course

In 2016, Florida woman Theresa Jones applied to drive for Lyft, Inc. The rideshare company ran its typical pre-employment screening then immediately barred her from employment because of her criminal record.

However, the record reported in Jones’ screening was not hers. It was that of a different woman with the same name and same date of birth. Lyft’s credit reporting agency pulled these records with a “name-based only search,” which means common names like Jones may show multiple results. The agency did not dig farther into each result’s specific information to find the report that matched the real Jones. Lyft cleared up the confusion by confirming Jones’ identity with her fingerprints, but she still filed a lawsuit against the company.

She claimed the rideshare company took adverse action without giving her a chance to dispute the background check first. This unjustified consequence cost Jones weeks of work and broke compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

In 2019, Lyft rescreened Jones. Again, Lyft’s background check provider presented the wrong criminal record report and Lyft once again suspended her employment. This time, Jones filed a lawsuit against both Lyft and its screening provider. Jones now drives for a Lyft competitor.

Stories like this underscore why FCRA compliance is so important in the background check industry. When screening agencies and the organizations hiring them maintain the standards of the FCRA, all of these problems can be prevented.

Below is a breakdown of the Fair Credit Reporting Act compliance and how to protect your employees, business and reputation.

What is the FCRA?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the FCRA “promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies” to protect those subjected to background checks.

Under the FCRA, the candidates you screen have several rights throughout the background check process. In order to be compliant with the FCRA, your organization and the background check agency you hire must respect those rights.

Anyone you run a background check on has the right to know everything in their file. If they request access to their report, your consumer reporting agency must provide them with the information they have.

Those you screen also have the right to dispute any part of their background check they believe is incorrect or incomplete. Before you can take adverse action against an applicant, you have to give them the chance to dispute their report.

If the person disputing information in their report provides the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with enough information to investigate their claim and their dispute is resolved, they have the right to get all the incorrect information erased or changed. Once this process is complete, you can proceed with hiring decisions.

How can I make sure my organization complies with the FCRA?

The most important and simplest thing any organization can do to stay complaint with the FCRA is ensure everyone gives written consent to a screening. No background check agency can give you any information without certainty that the subject is fully aware of the check. Including a consent form early in your application process is an easy way to secure compliance.

Once you have an applicant’s report, you must immediately notify them if you want to take adverse action against them. You need to explain what specific information in their report led you to your decision so they can see if the report is accurate.

In the case of Lyft, they were taken to court for notifying Jones that they had already taken adverse action without giving her any opportunity to correct her report. Following the FCRA can help you avoid this. 

To learn more about the FCRA or One Source’s FCRA compliance practices, contact One Source Client Relations.