Ban the Box legislation can be an important tool in remedying Black underemployment by removing employers' ability to use criminal history as a proxy for discrimination. However, it only attacks a symptom of the problem created by America's racist history, the insidiousness of which contributes to the devaluation of Black lives and the exclusion of Black men and women from all sectors of the workforce.
The laws in New York and elsewhere throughout the country have come a long way in recent years when it comes to protecting job applicants from employment discrimination based on criminal history. "Ban the box" laws and ordinances facilitate opportunities for tens of thousands of workers who used to pay an ongoing price for transgressions that they paid for long ago.
Last month, Los Angeles joined a growing group of U.S. cities taking steps to end hiring discrimination based on a job applicant's criminal history. The "Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring" ordinance took effect on January 22 and is arguably the strongest and most progressive so-called "Ban the Box" law in the country.
70 million Americans - one in every three adults in the United States - has a criminal record of some sort. for many of these people, however, the cost of their crimes imposes a death sentence on their ability to find work.
Ban the Box legislation is an incredibly important tool in fighting black underemployment by removing employers' ability to use criminal history as a proxy for discrimination. However, it only attacks a symptom of the problem of race discrimination in hiring: criminal history is not the only way that employers use "race-neutral" criteria a proxy to discriminate against black job seekers. A holistic approach that acknowledges the omnipresent role that the black criminality myth continues to play in employment discrimination - and daily life in general - is necessary.
On June 10th, the New York City Council voted with near unanimity to break down a barrier faced by job seekers with criminal histories by passing the Fair Chance Act. At its core, this legislation prevents a person's criminal record from acting as an arbitrary ban to employment by forbidding employers from discussing criminal convictions during the application and interview process.