T he best argument for why com- panies should support “ban- the-box” laws comes from the
leaders who have given job applicants
with arrest or conviction records a fair
chance at employment.
“In my experience, people with crimi-
nal records are often model employees,”
says one restaurant executive who employs
hundreds of workers in Ohio and Florida.
“They are frequently the most dedicated
and conscientious. A lot of doors are shut
to them, so when someone gives them an
opportunity, they make the most of it.”
Another executive, the founder of a Den-
ver-based telecommunications company,
says, “Of all the groups we targeted, [people
with criminal records] turned out to be the
best employees, in part because they usually
have a desire to create a better life for them-
selves … [and] are often highly motivated.”
These leaders have learned that open-
ing job opportunities to people with crimi-
nal histories has actually given their busi-
nesses an advantage.
Today, ban-the-box policies are in
effect in half the states—both red and
blue—and in more than 150 cities and
counties around the country. These measures remove the conviction check box
from public-sector job applications and
defer background checks. A number of
jurisdictions have expanded their laws to
cover the private sector as well.
Ban-the-box legislation is common sense.
It doesn’t tell you who to hire. It simply helps
ensure that you don’t screen out people with
records en masse. Plus, studies show it works.
Research in Durham, N.C., Atlanta and San
Francisco—all of which have ban-the-box
policies in place—shows increased hiring of
people with criminal records.
Companies that want to demonstrate
their commitment to diversity and social
responsibility are voluntarily banning the
box. Three hundred companies—includ-
ing some of the nation’s most recognizable
employers, such as Google, Facebook,
Starbucks, PepsiCo and Xerox—have
signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge, a
nationwide call-to-action to create oppor-
tunities for people impacted by the crimi-
nal justice system.
Among the leaders of this initiative is
the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health
System, which has a long track record of
employing people with conviction records.
Johns Hopkins executives say banning the
box provides them with a pipeline of tal-
ented applicants who typically have lower
Unfortunately, too many employers
remain wary of hiring individuals with
criminal backgrounds. The stigma associ-
ated with having a criminal history nega-
tively impacts employers’ hiring decisions
and lingers for decades. The callback rate
drops by at least half when a person has a
record—which has far-reaching implica-
tions for these individuals, and for society,
when you consider the following:
Seventy million people—nearly 1 in 3
U.S. adults—have an arrest or conviction
record. That shocking number includes
a disproportionate number of people of
color, reflecting the legacy of a racially
biased criminal justice system.
As we look to solve these daunting
problems, we must recognize that lock-
ing people out of the job market is a mis-
take. Employers can’t afford to miss out
on the talents and perspectives of millions
of good people who can contribute to a
In the end, not only will our local com-
munities benefit from ban-the-box laws,
but employers will begin to realize the
potential of this vast, untapped pool of
men and women who are ready to work.
Michelle Natividad Rodriguez is a
senior staff attorney with the National
Employment Law Project in New York
City and leads fair-chance hiring efforts to
expand job opportunities for people with
arrest and conviction records.
When employers look past the stigma of a criminal record,
they find highly qualified and motivated workers.
Do ‘Ban-the-Box’ Laws Help Expand
Employers’ Candidate Pools?