What to Know About Monroe County’s “Ban the Box” Law

August 23, 2023

Monroe County employers impacted by “ban the box” legislation may have to consider another law. In a recent 20-9 vote, the county passed the Monroe County Fair Chance Employment Act. This bipartisan Act prohibits local government positions from requesting information about criminal history through applications. 

Legislators introduced this Act due to Monroe County’s Commission on Racial and Structural Equity report. In 2021, it offered suggestions for addressing inequalities, including racial discrimination in local governance. One such recommendation included the implementation of “ban the box” regulations. Supporters noted that applications requesting criminal background information impacted Black and Latino job seekers more than others.

The new regulations offer exemptions from criminal background inquiries. One mentioned example includes law enforcement positions, which require stricter background screenings. The Act also allows limited criminal record inquiries by the county. However, such checks must happen after the candidate receives a conditional offer of employment.

Employers should note that the Monroe County Fair Chance Employment Act primarily affects county government positions. This clarification reflects the popular trend in employment laws concerning “ban the box.” As such, most employers will go unaffected.

The National Conference of State Legislatures indicated that over half of states and over 100 cities have enacted similar legislation. Many supporters of “ban the box” emphasized the importance of stable employment for individuals returning to society. For example, they often point to studies that steady jobs support reform for those with criminal histories, reducing the likelihood of relapsing. 

Supporters have also acknowledged that many job seekers with criminal backgrounds feel automatically disqualified from public service positions. As such, “ban the box” legislations promise a broader pool of talent by assuring these individuals they can apply like anyone else. This assurance addresses the inequality otherwise found in hiring.

While the scope of this particular Act is limited, “ban the box” legislation could improve individuals’ odds of employment. It also encourages employers to consider more diverse talents in the labor pool. However, limiting the laws to specific sectors, such as public versus private, can confuse employers.

Employers should consider partnering with a trusted background screening provider. A reliable partner can keep them compliant with complex and ever-shifting employment laws. In addition, they can explain locally-relevant rules and what checks to use in the hiring process. Another way to stay ahead is by considering “ban the box” practices even in areas that do not enforce it.

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