How it Began: The Ban the Box campaign was started by All of Us or None, a national civil rights movement of formerly-incarcerated people and our families. We started the campaign in 2004, after a series of Peace and Justice Community Summits identified job and housing discrimination as huge barriers to our successfully returning to our communities after jail or prison. The campaign challenges the stereotypes of people with conviction histories by asking employers to choose their best candidates based on job skills and qualifications, not past convictions. Since 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. has a conviction history, the impact of this discrimination is widespread and affects other aspects of life in addition to employment opportunity.
Initial Focus On Public Employers: The first phase of the Ban the Box has focused mainly on government agencies and public hiring practices. We demanded these changes in public agencies to educate public officials about the needs of the communities they were elected to serve. Since the campaign’s inception, a wide range of advocates including formerly-incarcerated people, legal aid organizations, re-entry service providers, civil rights partners, and elected officials have initiated Ban the Box campaigns. These campaigns often owe their success to the efforts of diverse statewide coalitions, such as the Second Chance Coalition in Minnesota. In 2009, the coalition succeeded in banning the box in Minnesota for public employment applicants. A bill is currently moving forward in that state that will broaden Ban the Box protections.
Campaign’s Success to Date: Today over 45 cities and counties, including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, and San Francisco have removed the question regarding conviction history from their employment applications. Seven states, Hawai’i, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, have changed their hiring practices in public employment to reduce discrimination based on arrest or conviction records. Some cities and counties and the state of Massachusetts have also required their vendors and private employers to adopt these fair hiring policies. In some areas, private employers are also voluntarily adopting ban the box hiring policies.
Ban the Box Protections Extended to Housing! Most recently Newark, NJ adopting an ordinance that expands the Ban the Box anti-discrimination policy to housing! The ordinance also prohibits discrimination based on conviction history in public and private employment. Check out the National Employment Law Project’s comprehensive listing of places that have introduced fair hiring reforms by clicking here.
Federal Government Strengthens Hiring Guidelines: The Ban the Box campaign successfully advocated with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission/EEOC to clarify and strengthen its guidelines. In April 2012, the Commission clarified and strengthened its policies by updating the Enforcement Guidance on Consideration of Arrest or Conviction Records in Employment Decisions. Testimony and research submitted by organizations around the country contributed to this update and clarification of the Guidance.
EEOC Upholds the Ban: The EEOC has already begun prosecuting employers who have a blanket ban on hiring people with felony convictions, since this ban violates an EEOC requirement for “individualized assessment” of the circumstances of any past convictions. For example, in 2012, Pepsi Beverages was required to pay $3.13 million and provide job offers and training to African-American job applicants because the EEOC ruled that Pepsi’s use of background checks discriminated based on race.
Ban the Box Campaign Expands: We’re now asking folks in the non-profit sector to support the campaign by taking the Fair Chance Pledge. This is a call for non-profit and social justice organizations and foundations to join the campaign, spread the word, and open up opportunities for people who have been in jail or prison. Together, our united efforts can reduce the discrimination that is devastating our communities and sow seeds for healing and justice.
Please click here for more information about All of Us or None & the Ban the Box Campaign.