Nationwide, over 150 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as “ban the box” so that employers consider a job candidate’s qualifications first, without the stigma of a criminal record. Born out of the work of All of Us or None, these initiatives provide applicants a fair chance by removing the conviction history question on the job application and delaying the background check inquiry until later in the hiring.

Momentum for the policy has grown exponentially, particularly in recent years. Federally, President Obama endorsed ban-the-box by directing federal agencies to delay inquiries into job applicants’ records until later in the hiring process.

There are a total of 24 states representing nearly every region of the country that have adopted the policies —California (2013, 2010), Colorado (2012), Connecticut (2010), Delaware (2014), Georgia (2015), Hawaii (1998), Illinois (2014, 2013), Louisiana (2016), Maryland (2013), Massachusetts (2010), Minnesota (2013, 2009), Missouri (2016), Nebraska (2014), New Jersey (2014), New Mexico (2010), New York (2015), Ohio (2015), Oklahoma (2016), Oregon (2015), Rhode Island (2013), Tennessee (2016), Vermont (2015, 2016), Virginia (2015), and Wisconsin (2016). Nine states—Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have removed the conviction history question on job applications for private employers, which advocates embrace as the next step in the evolution of these policies.

More jurisdictions are also adopting policies in addition to ban-the-box, such as incorporating the best practices of the 2012 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions and adopting innovative strategies such as targeted hiring. Robust fair-chance employment laws ensure a fairer decision-making process by requiring employers to consider job-relatedness of a conviction, time passed, and mitigating circumstances or rehabilitation evidence.

Tallying up the population of the states and localities that have adopted the policy, there are now over 200 million people in the United States—over half of the U.S. population—that live in a ban-the-box or fair-chance jurisdiction.

Fair chance policies benefit everyone because they’re good for families and the local community. At an event in Oakland for employers to discuss reentry issues, one business owner spoke to the personal benefit he finds from hiring people with records. “I’ve seen how a job makes all the difference,” says Derreck B. Johnson, founder and president of Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland. “When I give someone a chance and he becomes my best employee, I know that I’m doing right by my community.”

This resource guide documents the states, the District of Columbia, and the over 150 cities and counties—that have taken steps to remove barriers to employment for qualified workers with records. Nine states, the District of Columbia, and 25 cities and counties now extend the fair-chance policy to government contractors or private employers. Of the localities, Austin, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Columbia (MO), the District of Columbia, Montgomery County (MD), New York City, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), Prince George’s County (MD), Rochester, San Francisco, and Seattle extend their fair-chance laws to private employers in the area. A chart summarizing all the policies is at the end of this guide.

To support your state and local efforts to enact a fair-chance policy, check out NELP’s Fair Chance – Ban the Box Toolkit, which provides a step-by-step guide for advocates on how to launch a “ban the box” campaign. Embedded in the Toolkit is a range of resources to draft a law, to build your network, to support your outreach, and even to develop your media outreach. Here, are just a few of the resources:

  • A one-page factsheet, explains the basics of the policy.
  • A Best Practices and Model Policies guide provides model laws.
  • The Research Summary is a compilation of supportive research.

For additional information, contact Senior Staff Attorney Michelle Natividad Rodriguez at


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