Oklahoma Legislators May Revive Ban-the-Box Legislation

November 2, 2023

 Many expect legislators in Oklahoma to pass legislation that would help ex-felons. Should it pass in the next session, it would improve employment and housing opportunities for those who have served their time. The bill in question is Senate Bill 1077 (SB 1077), a “ban-the-box” type law.

“Ban-the-box” laws have become increasingly common and helped many as they became popular. Nearly 70 million Americans have a conviction or arrest record, making it difficult to find work or housing. As such, approximately 35 states and over 250 municipalities have enacted “ban-the-box” laws to help overcome obstacles due to their criminal backgrounds. For example, they often prohibit employers from including questions about an individual’s criminal history on job applications. 

Applications Before Ban-the-Box

In the past, many job applications had a box to check if applicants had a criminal record. As such, laws prohibiting questions about applicants’ criminal history on job applications became “ban-the-box” laws. These laws did not stop at banning the box. Some versions also prevent employers from inquiring about criminal history before offering a conditional offer of employment.

If passed, SB 1077 would ban employers from asking applicants if they have a felony on a job application. It would also prevent employers from asking during the hiring process. However, the employer may conduct a background check if they have made a conditional offer of employment. The new law would also require employers with a policy of refusing to hire ex-felons to disclose this information on their job applications.

Previous Reviews

SB 1077 previously made it past the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. Unfortunately, it never got a hearing on the Senate Floor. Nevertheless, Senator Jack Stewart said he would push the legislation again during this session. However, he mentioned that the bill may undergo amendments as well.

Though Oklahoma already has a “ban-the-box” law, it applies to state agencies only. This regulation took effect after a former Governor of Oklahoma signed an executive order in 2016. It required state agencies to remove any questions about criminal history from their applications. However, the current law has some exceptions. For example, employers at state agencies may inquire about an applicant’s criminal history during interviews. They may also conduct background checks on applicants after offering a conditional offer of employment.

If revived and passed, SB 1077 would benefit job seekers and employers. However, it may require employers to review and adjust their hiring policies to comply. One way to ensure compliance is by working with an experienced background check company. The right partner will ensure compliance with “ban-the-box” and other employment laws.

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