Virginia Governor Signs Ban the Box Law

Date: May 05, 2015

Gov. McAuliffe signed an executive order that prohibits some employers to ask job candidates about their criminal history.

Virginia has become the 15th state to adopt a “ban the box” policy after Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order prohibiting government employers from making hiring decisions based on previous criminal activity. Several cities in the state had already adopted a similar policy by the time the governor signed the executive order, including Norfolk and Richmond.

While Gov. McAuliffe’s executive order does not expand into the private sector and only applies for “all agencies, boards and commissions within the executive branch of government,” the law could lead to a wider application in the future.

“Even though the order does not apply to the private sector, we’re worried that it lays the groundwork for a more sweeping policy in the future,” says NFIB/Virginia state director Nicole Riley. “Mandates such as these are disproportionately more burdensome on small businesses.”

Some lawmakers and special interest groups are seeking to apply this policy at the federal level, pressing unnecessary mandates on business owners.

Nearly one in three U.S. adults has a criminal conviction or arrest record, almost 70 million people, according to the National Employment Law Project. Proponents of this legislation say figures like this prove how many people are affected by standard application methods. Millions may be disqualified for a potential employment opportunity as a result of questions relating to prior convictions and criminal history.

Without transparent employment applications, however, small business owners are unable to make the right hire and ensure the safety of their employees, customers and businesses. Mandates like this leave business owners more vulnerable to litigation claims.

Additionally, prohibiting employers from asking these questions early on in the hiring process or not allowing background checks can make the hiring process longer and more costly. Not all small businesses have the additional resources to deal with an extended hiring process.

“Many of them don’t have human resource departments,” Riley told The Washington Post. “You could potentially have wasted a lot of time and lost other good candidates.”

Gov. McAuliffe signed the order despite the failure of similar bills in the state legislature.

“It’s troubling to see Gov. McAuliffe amend state policy after a related bill fails to pass the legislature,” says Riley. “Our members have seen this play used by President Obama.”

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