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Understanding the Ban the Box Movement

The Ban the Box movement is sweeping the nation and has already taken root in both Oregon and Seattle. So what exactly is it and what do employers need to do to stay compliant?

The Ban the Box movement focuses on removing questions about previous criminal convictions from job applications. Proponents argue the questions cause bias against employees with criminal backgrounds. The goal is to remove that bias and allow employees to be considered for employment based on their qualifications instead.

So what should employers do to ensure they are compliant? To start, research the laws in your state, county, and city. Much of this movement is playing out at the city level, so knowing federal and state laws isn't enough.

The Pacific Northwest serves as a perfect example of needing to understand both state and city laws. Washington State has not yet passed a ban the box bill, but several Washington cities, including Tacoma and Seattle, have passed laws.

Oregon and Portland both passed ban the box laws. Effective January 1, 2016, Oregon banned employers from asking about criminal convictions on employment applications. Effective July 1, 2016, the City of Portland took the law a step further by banning employers with six or more employees from asking about criminal convictions in interviews or in any other manner (such as background checks) prior to a conditional job offer.

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