Former inmates who are searching for jobs in Louisiana soon will have one less impediment in their way. Late Wednesday, June 7, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed “ban the box” legislation into law. Applicants for unclassified state jobs will no longer have to disclose felony convictions on their employment application. Checking that criminal history box can eliminate an otherwise qualified candidate before there’s even a chance to compete for the job. The law does not apply to private businesses.
Advocates of the program say the measure is an attempt to get a foot in the door, so individuals previously convicted of criminal offenses can explain the circumstances of their previous arrest in person while being judged initially on their qualifications. “They can get integrated back into society with a better opportunity to get a job and become productive members of society,” Edwards said before signing the bill into law.
New Orleans removed the criminal history box from its government job applications in 2013. Baton Rouge did the same thing in 2015. To date, 23 states have adopted similar policies for governmental jobs, and seven of those states have extended the legislation to apply to private employers.
The box is partially banned for Louisiana’s public colleges and universities. These institutions will have limited authority to ask prospective students about their criminal histories to determine admission, legislators have decided. Schools can still ask about convictions for stalking, rape and sexual battery during the admissions process. If a potential student is denied admission because of such a conviction, the applicant could appeal the rejection. After granting admission, colleges also would be able to ask about criminal convictions for a variety of reasons, including to determine if they’ll limit participation in campus programs, financial aid and housing.
The new law takes effect on August 1, 2017.