Tennessee legislators are weighing a proposal to remove criminal background disclosure in employment applications, following in the footsteps of 13 other states that have already ratified this type of legislation.
A bill has been introduced in the Tennessee legislature that would prohibit business owners from asking job applicants to disclose their criminal background.
Known as Ban the Box, this bill removes any criminal history questions from a job application and delays the background check to later in the hiring process.
The criminal history “box” referred to in the legislation is part of a typical application process. Employers say that the box protects their liability in creating a safe workplace and removing it would upset the hiring process.
Josh Boyd, small business owner of Computer Pros in Nashville, says without the box, he could end up wasting “hours of time” on the wrong candidate.
“It’s going to increase the likelihood that we are going to hire a felon,” says Boyd. “To me, that’s very dangerous. We work with a lot of schools and we need to make sure that we’re properly [hiring]. … Obviously, we can’t have a convicted felon go to work with some of our educational clients.”
If approved, the bill will take effect July 1, 2015. Exemptions from the bill would include positions where federal law requires a criminal background check.
A Growing Trend
Support for this legislation has been growing around the country for some time. Sponsors and supporters of Ban the Box argue that nearly 70 million American adults have a criminal conviction that can be found in a simple criminal background check, according to a study by the National Employment Law Project. This can create serious problems for jobseekers and may eliminate them from many types of careers.
NELP reported that nearly 100 cities across the country and 13 states have changed their laws to require employers to remove the question pertaining to a criminal background for job applicants as of January 2015. According to the study, nine out of 10 employers conduct criminal background checks for employment.
What Business Owners Can Expect
For small business owners, this trend is alarming. Employers argue they are required to keep their workplaces safe and Ban the Box could create negligent hiring circumstances, putting businesses and employees at risk.
Additionally, small businesses with less than 10 employees may not have a human resources department to handle new hires. In these circumstances, business owners may not be able to afford the time to wait later in the hiring process to uncover a prospective employee’s criminal history.
“We understand where the proponents are coming from, but if you put this mandate in place, it will really hurt businesses, especially smaller businesses,” says Jim Brown, NFIB/Tennessee state director.