Michigan’s legislature is considering a bill that would stop employers from asking prospective employees to disclose their criminal histories on job applications. On Tuesday, a Michigan state House committee began hearing testimony on the bill.
If passed, the measure would not make it so that employers had no idea whether or not their employees had committed a felony. Rather, employers would need to wait until they either conducted a background check, or asked about criminal history in an interview. Both options give an opportunity for someone with a felony on their record to explain their past, rather than having their job application thrown in the trash without much consideration.
Such measures are known as “ban the box” laws, because they eliminate the box on a job application that asks whether a person has ever been convicted of a felony. The legislator who authored Michigan’s bill, along with many advocates for felons’ rights, believes that removing this question would help felons find a job once they get out of prison, reducing the likelihood of repeat offenses and cutting back the money spent on the state’s penal system.
Over 50 local jurisdictions, mostly cities, in a total of 22 states have banned the box. Three locations in Michigan — Detroit, Kalamazoo, the county of Muskegon — already have laws about how and when employers can inquire into someone’s criminal history. The effort is less popular, however, on a statewide level. Only 10 states and the District of Columbia have such laws on the books. Most recently, Target banned the box at all of its stores after Minnesota passed a statute banning the box at private companies.