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‘Ban the box’ initiatives

Much as sexual orientation has become a protected class in some countries, some countries, Australia and Korea, for example, have begun to protect applicants with irrelevant criminal records (Sackett et al., 2010). In the US, advocacy groups have been seeking additional protections for ex-offenders during the selection process. These groups have been calling for employers to delay asking candidates if they have a criminal history until later in the application process, often once a conditional offer has been made. Such campaigns are known as ‘ban the box’ initiatives (in reference to the check box on employment applications regarding a candidate’s prior criminal history) and have gained ground in the last few years. The first ban the box initiative was passed in Hawaii in 1998 and it has been adopted in other states since then. At the time of writing, 15 states have passed such legislation, with several more pursuing similar bills. Furthermore, President Obama has called for similar legislation for federal employment.

Individual cities and employers, such as Target, have implemented similar policies. The intention of this initiative is to reduce the impact of potential biases against people with a criminal history by allowing employers to have more information about the applicant’s skills and qualifications rather than focusing on their conviction status (D’Alessio, Stolzen- berg & Flexon, 2015). This can have many benefits, among them successfully reintegrating ex-offenders into society and reducing the number of repeat offenders (D’Alessio et al., 2014). While this initiative helps all ex-offenders, there is evidence suggesting that Blacks with a criminal record struggle more than White ex-offenders to get a job interview (Pager, Western & Sugie, 2009), highlighting the initiative’s importance for reducing detrimental selection procedures for minorities.

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