Ohio May Become the Latest State to Enact a “Ban the Box” Law for Private Employers

Following the passage of Ohio’s Fair Hiring Act, which became effective in 2016, public employers in Ohio are prohibited from asking applicants if they have plead guilty to or been convicted of a felony. Section 9.73 of the Ohio Revised Code reads, in pertinent part: “(B) No public employer (as defined in the statute) shall include on any form for application for employment with the public employer any question concerning the criminal background of the applicant.” It is commonly known as the “ban the box” law, in reference to the fact that public employers cannot include a felony conviction “box” on an application.

The Ohio Senate is now considering whether the same prohibition should apply to private employers as well. Senate Bill 49, which was introduced earlier this year, seeks to bring private hiring practices in line with the current practice for public employment in Ohio. If passed, it will prohibit private employers from including any question on an employment application concerning whether the applicant has pleaded guilty to or been convicted of a felony. Ohio would join eight other states that currently have “ban the box” laws on the books applying to private employers.

As with the public employer “ban the box” law, nothing in Senate Bill 49 precludes an employer from conducting background checks or inquiring as to an applicant’s criminal background during the interview process. It merely seeks to allow applicants to get past the first stage of the process—the application—to encourage a more individualized inquiry, which is also considered the best practice per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (as explained in this EEOC Enforcement Guidance).

The bill is currently pending before the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee. For more information, visit the Ohio Legislature’s website.