DSM Reg. Editorial: Lawmakers should ‘ban the box’ on job applications

The following is a Des Moines Register Editorial published March 8:

“Iowa employers should no longer ask most job applicants about criminal history until later in the hiring process.

Senate File 84 would “ban the box” in Iowa, eliminating questions about criminal history from job applications and requiring employers to wait until applicants are being interviewed or offered a job to inquire about past wrongdoing. The legislation was approved by the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee last month. All lawmakers should vote to approve this bill, and Gov. Terry Branstad should sign it into law.

The legislation does not dictate who employers can or cannot hire. Applicants can still be asked about criminal history and subjected to background checks. The ban does not apply to positions where state or federal law requires employers to exclude applicants with specific criminal histories.

But delaying such questions until later in the hiring process ensures an application is not immediately tossed in the round file. It recognizes years of getting “tough on crime” has left millions of Americans with a “record,” and criminal databases may be incomplete, not revealing acquittals or dismissals. Only half the records in a federal master criminal database are up to date. The legislation helps ensure people seeking work are given a chance to become productive, taxpaying members of our communities, something all of us should support.

“If that box is on (a job application) and they’re honest and mark it, they’re out the door,” said Sen. Rich Taylor, who worked at the Iowa State Penitentiary for more than two decades and said offenders deserve a second chance. “They are good people — not just somebody who should be thrown away.”

More than 100 cities and counties across the country have adopted a “ban the box” initiative, and 21 states have policies that remove conviction history questions from job applications, according to a report this month from the National Employment Law Project. The initiative is supported by the conservative Koch brothers, owners of Koch Industries. Last year President Barack Obama directed federal agencies to delay inquiries into applicants’ records until later in the hiring process.

More than half the U.S. population now lives in a jurisdiction that has adopted a policy intended to give people a fair chance at securing employment. Iowa should finally join these enlightened areas of the country.

Lobbyists declare support, opposition to “ban the box” bill

As of March 8, twice as many lobbyists had declared support for Senate File 84 than declared opposition to it, according to the Iowa General Assembly website.

Those who registered “for” the bill represent the following organizations: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Iowa-Nebraska; National Association of Social Workers, Iowa Chapter; Iowa Association for Justice; South Central Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO; Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund; Veterans National Recovery Center; League of Women Voters of Iowa; Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund; Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Iowa Catholic Conference; Iowa Annual Conference of United Methodist Church; South Central Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO; Fawkes-Lee & Ryan Inc.; Justice Reform Consortium; Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Lobbyists who declared “against” the bill represent the following organizations: Home Builders Association of Iowa; Master Builders of Iowa; National Federation of Independent Business, Iowa; Iowa Public Airports Association; Iowa Bankers Association; Iowa Association of School Boards; Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants; Iowa Association of Business and Industry.”


We couldn’t agree more: the Iowa Legislature needs to pass this bill. TAKE ACTION right now to make sure Iowa bans the box!

We have to flood our legislators email inboxes by Friday – that’s the second funnel and we have to make sure this bill survives past that point, or it officially dies.


Join the Fight