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Twelve states have enacted laws aimed at reducing unfair barriers to the employment of individuals with criminal records, according to the National Employment Law Project. In 1998, Hawaii became the first to adopt such a so-called "ban-the-box" initiative, barring both public and private employers in the state from inquiring about a job applicant's potential criminal record until well into the hiring process. Three states —Delaware, Illinois and Nebraska — have passed "ban-the-box" measures this year, but they only apply to the public sector.
The ban-the-box concept has been around for decades, but getting states on board has been a slow process. After Hawaii became the first to adopt a statewide ban-the-box law in 1998, it would be over 10 years before another state (Minnesota in 2009) followed suit. But more quickly began to come on board. According to NELP, 10 more states have since adopted ban-the-box laws, including four in 2013 and three more, Delaware (HB 167), Nebraska (LB 907) and Illinois (HB 5701), this year. A similar bill in New Jersey (AB 1999) is expected to be signed into law any day, while a Washington D.C. ban-the-box bill has been signed by Mayor Vincent Gray and is now awaiting final approval from Congress. NELP says over 60 cities have also adopted their own ban-the-box measures, including major urban areas like Philadelphia, Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Oakland, Austin, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, New York, New Orleans, Tampa, Louisville, Kansas City and Detroit. Retail giants Target and Walmart have also changed their hiring policies to no longer require criminal disclosure in the initial job application process.