Turning a ‘Blind Eye’ to Criminal History: Ban the Box Discussion

Date: July 07, 2015

NFIB’s Beth Milito discusses the risks that ban the box legislation, which restricts employers from looking at criminal backgrounds, poses for small business.

More and more states are adding a new item on their agendas that could harm small business: ban the box laws.

Legislation to “ban the box” prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about criminal backgrounds on job applications. These laws would only allow businesses to examine criminal history after interviews have been conducted or provisional job offers have been extended.

NFIB Senior Executive Legal Counsel Beth Milito was featured on PBS NewsHour Weekend where she discussed what the legislation would mean, and how current guidelines protect small business while still creating a fair process for evaluating applicants.

“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidance in April of 2012 and it reiterates that where at all possible, it’s good for a business to consider three factors: the nature of the crime, the time that’s elapsed since the crime and the nature of the job,” Milito said on the show. “And when at all possible, to make an individualized assessment. I think many employers will do that.”

Many advocates for the “ban the box” laws argue that current policies leave those with criminal backgrounds—sometimes just an arrest record and no conviction—with slim opportunities for employment. However, Milito stresses that these laws pose major risks for small business owners, such as safety concerns, loss of property and negligence lawsuits.

“Hiring decisions are challenging, and [business owners] need this information,” she said. “They can’t turn a blind eye. Too much is at risk. They can’t turn a blind eye to criminal history. It’d be foolish to. You know, there’s people [and] property at stake.” 

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