Ban the Box

Ban the Box Legislation


Ban the Box is a nationwide movement that supports legislation prohibiting employers from including questions about criminal records on job applications. 

In New Jersey, the Opportunity to Compete Act, also know as “ban the box” has gained support from civil leaders and legislators. The purpose of the legislation is to ban the practice of having a box on a job application asking whether or not the applicant has had a criminal conviction on their record. Once the applicant’s qualifications for a job are considered, employers would then be allowed to conduct background checks to see if the applicant has had a previous conviction. It’s practical, since a good many applicants’ applications get tossed in the pail once the box is checked “yes” without being afforded the opportunity to give an explanation.

 You’d also have to figure that anyone who’s been convicted of even the most minor of crimes could always lie on their application. So why have the box in the first place, knowing full well that once you check “yes,” the likelihood of it being tossed in the pail becomes that much greater. Companies will still conduct background checks and find out the truth sooner or later. According to a quote from, Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr had this to say about the current policies:  Current procedures hurt those who “get caught up in today’s zero-tolerance policies, whether it be from a college fraternity prank or getting caught smoking something a little stronger than tobacco.” Teens and young adults are often charged with criminal mischief and don’t get a second chance before they’re prosecuted, she said. “The reality is that we all make mistakes, no matter what we look like, no matter where we come from,” she said. “But one mistake should not make a life sentence of doors slamming in your face when you need to make a living.”

While many will say that this ties the hands of the employer who should be able to make a decision as to who they want to hire without the interference of the government – it’s the government (meaning you and me) that will have to bear the high cost of recidivism or social welfare programs once those previously convicted go without gainful employment.


Banning the box, at the very least, gives the applicant a shot at a job should they possess the necessary qualifications = pending the results of a background check. The employer then has the ability, once the background check comes back, as to whether or not to hire the applicant.

Read More: NJ Mayors Rally to Support “Ban the Box” Legislation – Do You? [POLL]

The movement has significant implications for African American (males and females), many of whose lives have been completely ruined by the so-called criminal justice system.  In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new 52 page guidelines  stating that, “the policy rationale is that an employer is more likely to objectively assess the relevance of an applicant’s conviction if it becomes known when the employer is already knowledgeable about the applicant’s qualifications and experience. As a best practice, and consistent, with applicable laws, the Commission recommends that employers not ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquirers, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.”


The EEOC, which enforces the part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits racial discrimination on the job, comes to this issue indirectly. A company may have what appears to be a neutral policy – for example, a ban on hiring anyone with a felony conviction. But because a disproportionate amount of people with felony convictions are minorities, the neutral policy actually becomes discriminatory “Assuming that current incarceration rates remain unchanged, about 1 in 17 white men are expected to serve time in prison during their lifetime,” the EEOC guidelines note. “By contrast, this rate climbs to 1 in 6 for Hispanic men, and to 1 in 3 for African American men.”


In addition to New Jersey, there have been Ban the Box bills in numerous states and cities across the country. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed into law a measure forbidding employers to use the box on applications or to even ask potential employees about their criminal histories during their first encounter. 

Ban the Box Movement

All of Us or None is recognized nationwide as the core of a Ban the Box movement that is sweeping the country. As of May 2014, over 50 cities or counties, and 10 states have removed questions about conviction history from their public employment applications. All of Us or None and LSPC (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children) co-sponsored AB 218 in 2013, California legislation that implemented Ban the Box policies for public employment statewide. (See the AB 218 Implementation Guide, created by AOUON and National Employment Law Project.) read more at.. To start a campaign in your area, check out the LSPC Ban the Box Campaign Toolkit. Contact Jesse Stout, [email protected] or [email protected] (or 415-625-7049) for a hard copy of the Ban the Box Organizers’ Toolkit and more information.

Former New Jersey Institute for Social Justice President Cornell William Brooks, now President and CEO of the NAACP,  speaks about the nationwide movement to “ban the box” on job applications that ask applicants to check a box if they have any prior criminal history even if they were arrested but never convicted of a crime.

Penn Program on Documentaries and the Law presents “Boxed Out: Criminal Records & The “Ban the Box” Movement in Philadelphia”

In 2011, Philadelphia passed a “Ban the Box” ordinance that bars employers from inquiring about the criminal histories or doing background checks of job applicants until after the initial interview. The video describes the problems addressed by the ordinance and other state and federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination against formerly convicted persons who find it difficult to support their families and contribute to their communities without a job. The video responds to the concerns employers raise about “Ban the Box” by offering the views of executives whose organizations have experience with hiring the formerly convicted.