July 20, 2019 | 83° F

Management professor advocates for ‘banning the box’

Photo by Naaz Modan |

Photo Illustration | A Rutgers Business School professor is urging employers to remove the box that asks applicants about criminal history, citing the box as systematically denying people convicted of wrongdoing from obtaining work and turning their lives around. 

Although many employers commonly review job applicants’ criminal history on applications, a Rutgers Business School professor is advocating for employers to “ban the box” during the hiring process.

In an article titled “The Case for Hiring Ex-Convicts” in Ethisphere magazine, Ann Buchholtz, a professor in the Department of Management and Global Business, is providing insight as to why employers should give ex-convicts a greater chance to land a job.

Employers should not require applicants to indicate past criminal history on job applications, and instead allow them to explain themselves during an interview session, Buchholtz said.

“If somebody checks the box on the employment application, we both know what happens … it goes into the pile that doesn’t get considered,” she said.

Denying ex-convicts the opportunity to re-enter the workforce almost guarantees they will relapse into criminal behavior, Buchholtz said.

Regardless of intention, not allowing ex-convicts to earn an honest living will increase their likelihood of committing crimes out of sheer desperation, she said.

“If we don’t give people who have paid their dues … an opportunity to re-enter society, there’s going to be recidivism,” she said. “Eventually, if they can’t get work, they’re going to return to a life of crime.”

"Banning the box" would be beneficial to the promotion of racial equality because it lessens the magnitude of disparate impact, Buchholtz said. Disparate impact, in its simplest terms, is when a practice that is not discriminatory in nature becomes discriminatory during its widespread application.

An example of this might be observed with black ex-convicts, who obtain less jobs after incarceration on a grand scale simply because more blacks are jailed for small crimes, Buchholtz said.

“It’s not necessarily direct discrimination,” she said. “The action is discriminatory because so many more people of color (or) protected groups have been incarcerated.”

Keeping the box in place hinders social progress because it permits the facilitation of unequal income distribution, promoting discrimination, Buchholtz said.

Among other scenarios, Buchholtz cited a past height requirement that often barred women from being employed as firefighters as an example of how damaging disparate impact can be.

“The result is discrimination and it has all the negative consequences of any discrimination,” she said. “It closes people out (from) the workforce … it’s unfair, and discrimination hurts society in general.”

"Banning the box" does not promote hiring ex-convicts, but simply gives them a greater likelihood of being able to display whether or not they have been rehabilitated during incarceration, Buchholtz said.

The crime somebody committed and for which they served time is often totally unrelated to the work they would do, she said. Ex-convicts might end up being excellent employees, and often are once they are given the job offer.

“Nobody is suggesting that if somebody did something relevant to the job, they should get hired,” she said. “If somebody wrote bad checks, nobody is suggesting they should be a bank teller and certainly if somebody was a pedophile, nobody is suggesting they work in a daycare center.”

Even though Buchholtz’s proposal is not supported by empirical data obtained from research, she said giving ex-convicts the opportunity to make an honest living is simply the right thing to do.

“It just gives the person a chance to make their case,” she said. “(It’s a) chance to be considered, rather than ending up on the pile of people who are out of the running before they even get a chance –– that’s all (banning) the box does.”

Dan Corey is a Rutgers Business School first-year student majoring in pre-business and journalism and media studies. He is an Associate News Editor at The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @_dancorey for more stories.

Dan Corey

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