'I should not have to go blind into that hiring position.'
Iowa fast-food franchise owner Randy Bradley is concerned for small businesses in Iowa if the state were to pass “ban the box” legislation. “It depends on how the law would be written, but it’s something that all business owners should be considerably wary of,” he says.
Ban the box laws forbid an employer from asking if an applicant has a criminal record on a job application, delaying such questions until later in the hiring process.
While no such legislation has been introduced yet in Iowa, a growing wave of states—including Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska—have enacted ban the box laws, encouraging some in Iowa to call for a similar law.
The laws aim to give potential employees a better chance of being hired based on their qualifications, but Bradley and other business owners worry it could undermine the safety and success of their employees, customers and business.
“I should not have to go blind into that hiring position,” says Bradley. “There are real strong concerns here…if the government prevents me from finding out about my potential employees.”
There is also potential liability to the business if an employee commits a crime. For small business especially, says Bradley, opening up the potential for a lawsuit is dangerous, since one court case can wipe out a business financially.
Time is another consideration. While a ban the box bill would allow employers to ask later in the hiring process about any criminal record, it puts a strain on the business owner. “As an employer, time is a valuable commodity,” says Bradley. If people have a criminal record that will prevent them from being viable candidates for the position, “let’s find out right up front and not waste their time and mine.”
Bradley is a proponent of giving people a second chance, but “you have to consider everyone who’s involved: the former criminal, the employer and the employees,” he says. “This comes under a whole rubric of government needing to stop telling us how to run our business.”