Integrated Security Services, Inc., New York

As NYC Council Passes “Ban the Box” Bill, Recent Hiring Errors Cause Concern

23 Jul

ban the box Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski / flickr

The passage of the Fair Chance Act in New York City is leaving some wondering about potential consequences for both hiring and workplace safety.

Should a felon have to say so? Debate over the practice of obligating felons to report their criminal history to potential employers has officially caught flame. Last month, the New York City Council passed the Fair Chance Act. Known as “Ban the Box,” the bill aims to remove the question of criminal history from job applications, according to the NELP.

The idea is to eliminate the stigma that comes with criminality, helping ex-cons reintegrate into society in a productive way. But will this new practice compromise safety in the workplace?

“Ban the Box”

Filling out a job application involves revealing personal information. For some, answering “No” to having a felony criminal history is a truthful, easy relief. For others, the question is life-determining, and seriously impacts their prospects for gainful employment.

A solution to discrimination against felons is “Ban the Box,” which prohibits private-sector employers from asking applicants about their criminality on applications. NYC is not the first to pass such a bill. Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have enacted similar laws.

The Fair Chance Act allows for reformed criminals to at least explain their histories to interviewers, as opposed to the immediate, pre-interview rejection that has historically followed “checking the box.” As a result, every convicted felon is not necessarily painted with a broad brush, ensuring their consideration for employment stems from their particular qualifications.

Quoted by the The Huffington Post, Mayor Bill de Blasio explains, “For those who have paid their debt to society, we want them to be rehabilitated. We want them to reintegrate in society. They have to have economic opportunity.” Unsurprisingly, he is expected to sign the bill.

A Fresh Start or New Danger?

Barbed wire fence

The Fair Chance Act is being applauded as an egalitarian solution towards providing former criminals a fair chance to properly reintegrate into society.

According to The Huffington Post, Piper Kerman – whose memoir, Orange Is The New Black, has inspired popular prison reform and a hit TV show – is in full support of the bill. She argues, “Getting a job is the single most important expectation we have for a person returning home from prison, and yet there are a host of policies and also prejudices that put that brass ring out of reach for way too many people.”

And while the act is noble in intention, many are concerned that its structure leaves employers vulnerable.

On the same day the bill passed in New York, a scandal unfolded across town at Rikers Island, the largest correctional facility in the city. According to the New York Post, the Department of Corrections had been hiring former convicts as healthcare workers for the past several years, and had made no effort to conduct security checks in the process of doing so.

Security Checks Needed

The Rikers scandal proves that security checks are as relevant as ever. Indeed, the Fair Chance Act does not prohibit security reviews – instead, checks may be conducted only after an applicant receives an interview (should a company request one). However, companies still need to ensure that the safety and security of their employees is a first priority throughout all stages of the hiring process.

Integrated Security Services offers employers a simple solution for conducting security checks of both prospective candidates and current employees. Our expert and discreet team can cull any and all details that might affect a candidate’s hireability and present them in a timely and professional report. Not limited to criminal history, Integrated evaluates a potential hire’s complete profile.

So while banning the box may help eliminate a stigma, there is no room for the elimination of productive and essential screening processes.