Compliance Corner: Ban the Box

Ban the box laws prevent employers from asking about criminal history on a job application

California is the latest state to enact a “ban the box” law. The governor recently signed a bill that prevents private employers from asking about applicants’ criminal conviction histories on the employment application. It goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

“Ban the box” refers to the box on applications requiring applicants to reveal their criminal history. The law requires employers with more than five employees to not request or consider a candidate’s conviction history until a conditional offer has been made. California already had a “ban the box” law on the record that applies to state agencies, cities and counties. This law expands that to the private sector.

More than 150 cities and 29 states have enacted some form of a ban the box law. The laws are intended to push a background check later into the hiring process so that employers consider an applicant’s qualifications before their criminal history.

While California’s law does not require employers to justify or explain their decision not to employ someone based on their criminal history, New York City’s law requires employers to justify rescinding a conditional offer based on criminal history. Different cities, states and counties have different requirements as to when employers can request a criminal history or run a background check and what they can do with that information.  If an employer runs a background check after a conditional offer has been made, care must be taken before any adverse decision is made as there are strict regulations governing this process.

With the growing popularity of ban the box laws, employers need to be prepared for the patchwork of legislation, and they cannot rely on a one-size-fits-all approach.

If you want to read more about compliance-related issues, check out our other Compliance Corner blog posts on predictive schedulingsalary historypaid sick leave and New York City’s Freelance Isn’t Free law.

Compliance Corner is a feature on the PeopleScout blog. At least once a month, we’ll be featuring a compliance issue that’s in the news or on our minds. Understanding the patchwork of labor laws across the world is complicated, but it’s part of what we do best. If you have questions on the compliance issue discussed in this post, please reach out to your PeopleScout account team or contact us at

By | 2017-10-22T14:22:49+00:00 October 18th, 2017|