Ohio Will Remove Criminal History Box From State Job Applications

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 18, 2015

Effective June 1, Ohio will "ban the box" from state government job applications that prospective employees are asked to check off if they have ever been convicted of a crime. As a result, criminal history questions will be removed from paper and online applications. State employers will still be able to question applicants about their criminal records during job interviews or later in the hiring process.

The Ohio "ban the box" prohibition represents a voluntary change in state policy rather than a new law or executive order. Covered positions will include state lawyers, highway workers, prison guards and social workers. However, legislation is pending that would extend the state's criminal history policy to all public employers, such as cities, counties and public schools.

Many of the Buckeye State's largest municipalities already have "ban the box" measures in place on city and county job applications. For instance, Cincinnati and Cleveland both prohibit criminal record questions on their applications. Meanwhile, Hamilton County and Cuyahoga County (where Cincinnati and Cleveland are located, respectively) may conduct background checks of applicants only after a conditional job offer has been made.

Ohio becomes the 17th state with at least some form of a "ban the box" policy. Six of those states have "ban the box" laws that extend to most private employers, including:

  • Hawaii;
  • Illinois;
  • Massachusetts;
  • Minnesota;
  • New Jersey; and
  • Rhode Island.

The National Employment Law Project estimates that 70 million adults have arrests or convictions on their record that can make it more difficult for them to obtain employment. There is increasing national concern that asking criminal history questions on initial applications may deter qualified applicants from seeking jobs.

"Ban the box" laws aim to prevent qualified, rehabilitated job applicants from being automatically disqualified from consideration before they have a chance to explain the circumstances of their past.