Asking Applicants about their Criminal Record

January 6, 2015

In some states, cities, and towns, an employer cannot include a question on a job application asking about criminal records. It is called “Ban the Box” and is a growing trend.

Currently, Michigan is not one of the states that has passed a ban-the-box law, but some local cities and counties within Michigan have. The cities of Ann Arbor, Detroit and East Lansing, and Genesee, Kalamazoo and Muskegon counties have all passed ordinances that apply specifically to employees and applicants of these entities. The City of Detroit’s ordinance also applies to vendors and contractors hired by the City.

This stems out of federal agencies who believe some people with criminal records won’t apply for jobs if they see such a question, even if the criminal history would not necessarily prevent them from getting the job.

The employer can still check the applicant’s criminal record history during some point of the evaluation process, but cannot include that question on the application or ask it in an interview. Many of the Michigan cities and counties with ban-the-box ordinances also mandate that criminal history can only be obtained by a background check once a conditional offer has been made or the applicant is seriously being considered for the job.

Also, more and more states are restricting the types of criminal records they report. This makes it even more challenging for employers to hire the best workforce.

Contributed by Steven J. Austin of LABORCHEX.

Through the Michigan Chamber partnership with LABORCHEX, members get discounted pricing to employment background screening services. To learn more, please email Kym Lewis or call him at 1-800-880-0366.