State of Ohio Jumps in and “Bans the Box” For All Civil Service Jobs

While the state Legislature has not yet weighed in on the issue, the Buckeye State has taken one step closer to embracing “ban the box.”

Effective June 1, state civil service applications no longer include the check box asking job applicants about their criminal history. The question has reportedly been removed from both online and paper applications.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the change will impact “thousands of applications for state government positions, which include highway workers, prison guards, social workers and lawyers.” Reportedly the state government receives some 250,000 job applications a year and hires about 4,000 civil service employees annually.

Another Ban the Box on steroids bill

The policy decision doesn’t affect all public positions in Ohio, but it’s still seen as a victory for those promoting ban the box. Some Ohio cities and counties already have their own ban the box policies in place including Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Massillon and Hamilton County, but until now the trend had not caught on state-wide.

A statewide ban is, however, pending in the state legislature. House Bill 56 in the Ohio General Assembly was introduced early this year by Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, and Rep. Stephen Slesnick, D-Canton, in an effort to ban the box for all public job openings in the state.

In addition to removing the check box from all public job applications, that bill would impose additional requirements on state employers. As we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, HB 56 is ban the box, super-sized. Yes, it’s ban the box on steroids.

It would require a public employer to consider a list of job-related factors before it could deny employment. Those job-related factors extend beyond the established job related test promoted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and include a requirement to take into consideration how long the person has gone without convictions and to review any documentation or testimony that would demonstrate the applicant’s rehabilitation, as well as a duty to notify the applicant in writing, via registered mail, stating the specific evidence presented and reasons for rejection.

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Postponing checks until after the application stage

The proposed bill also specifically prohibits denying employment based on an arrest that is not followed by a conviction, with no carve out for pending cases. The bill was referred to the Commerce and Labor Committee in February.

Like other ban the box policies, the policy adopted by the State of Ohio does not prohibit or prevent state employers from asking about criminal history and conducting background checks. It does, however postpone the question until after the application stage, presumably during the interview process.

Proponents believe this will serve as a means for employers to get to know applicants and assess qualifications before they are eliminated and before they run a background check.

This was originally published on the EmployeeScreen IQ blogEmployeeScreen IQ is not a law firm, and the contents of this article are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice.

Angela Preston is senior vice president and counsel, corporate ethics and compliance for SterlingBackcheck.com. Angela has broad industry experience including more than 20 years as a licensed attorney and 12 years as a leader and expert in the background screening industry. She has extensive expertise in employment law, privacy law, EEO law, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Contact her at Angela.Preston@sterlingbackcheck.com.

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