An employment application can be an important document and can provide you, as a prospective employer, with good information about an applicant. However, you have to be careful that you are not overstepping the legal line. Many older job applications have questions you can no longer ask.
Although what can be asked on a job application and in an interview varies from state-to-state, information no longer acceptable to ask includes:
Social Security Number – you’d have to have a very old application for that to be included.
Salary – many states no longer allow you to ask an applicant how much they made in their previous position. This is because it can perpetuate wage discrimination.
Criminal History – this is where Ban the Box comes in.
Although most employment applications over the years had a section where the applicant was asked about criminal history and checked a “yes” or “no” box, this box is becoming prohibited in more and more states.
Ban the Box – or Fair Chance to Work – laws vary depending on the state or municipality of your company. Some states or local jurisdictions require you to make a conditional job offer before obtaining a criminal history or doing a background check. Some jurisdictions only prohibit the practice if you have a certain number of employees. Some of the laws only apply to public employees while others include private employees.
If the candidate reveals that they have a criminal background, or if the background check reveals it, disqualifying the candidate must be because they hold a job where that history would indicate a potential threat to the company.
For example: You offer a candidate a job for an administrative assistant position. After offering the job you are informed that they were convicted of fraud three years ago. If that administrative assistant is doing your bookkeeping or payroll, you have a right not to hire them. However, if the person was convicted of driving under the influence, you likely have no grounds for not hiring them.
Simply put, Ban the Box prevents employers from automatically disqualifying potential candidates who have a criminal record. The purpose of the legislation is to allow ex-offenders the opportunity to display their qualifications during the hiring process before being rejected from certain jobs due to their criminal history.