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San Francisco may Ban the Box on job applications for private sector employers

Sometime during the first week of February, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will consider a measure to Ban the Box – a reference to the check box asking about criminal records on applications – that prevents private sector employers in the city with more than 20 employees from asking about the criminal pasts of job seekers during the initial hiring process.

Ordinance 131192 – introduced by Supervisors Jane Kim (District 6) and Malia Cohen (District 10) – expands on the current screening process for City of San Francisco job applicants that saves questions about criminal records until after the initial job application – such as during job interviews – to give ex-offenders a more fair opportunity to find employment.

The new measure would still allow employers to ask about criminal records during employment background checks later in the hiring process. However, jobs such as security work or law enforcement would be mostly off limits for applicants with a serious criminal records.

The rapidly growing ‘Ban the Box’ movement has spread to more than 50 U.S. cities and ten states, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a non-profit organization that focuses on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers.

Major U.S. cities adopting ‘Ban the Box’ policies include: Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; New York City, NY; Oakland, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Seattle, WA; and Washington, DC.

In October 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) to ‘Ban the Box’ for local and state government jobs.

Other states that have adopted ‘Ban the Box’ legislation include Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.

Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of San Francisco-area background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), selected ‘Ban the Box’ as the number one trend for the recently released ‘ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends of 2014.’

The ‘Ban the Box’ movement “is quickly heading towards becoming a national standard and will be a hot issue for employers in 2014,” believes Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual.’ “The idea is that asking about criminal records upfront serves as a potential early knock-out punch for ex-offenders that may otherwise be qualified.”

A copy of Ordinance 131192 is available at

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