“Ban the box” policy may actually lead to more discrimination

ban the box“Ban the box” is a policy meant to help ex-offenders avoid discrimination by not allowing employers to ask about criminal history until later in the hiring process. In Missouri, this ordinance is in effect in Columbia for all employers, and St. Louis and Kansas City for public employers. This April, Governor Jay Nixon signed an executive order authorizing the state of Missouri, as an employer, to also follow this policy.

Associated Industries of Missouri objected two bills that would “ban the box” for private employers, primarily due to concerns that it would be difficult for employers to keep the work-place a safe environment, and would also waste the time of both the employer and applicants that would ultimately not be hired anyway due to their criminal history.

Researchers at the University of Virginia have found that “ban the box” may actually cause more discrimination through ‘short-cuts’ used by employers, usually based on race.

“Employers still don’t want to hire folks with criminal records and so now when they can’t see who has a record up front, they’re left to guess who has a record,” said Jen Doleac, UVA Professor. “They will avoid interviewing, in particular, young, low-skilled black and Hispanic.”

Doleac and her research partner, Ben Hansen, found that after states and communities enacted the “ban the box” law, employment fell drastically for young black and Hispanic men in those areas.