New Tennessee law ‘bans the box’ for state government jobs

Tennessee has joined the list of states passing some form of “ban the box” legislation with the passage of Senate Bill 2440. Governor Bill Haslam signed the measure on April 14.

Many states, counties, and cities across the country have joined the ban-the-box movement by prohibiting job applications that require applicants to check a box indicating whether they have a criminal record.

Tennessee’s law doesn’t affect private-sector employers. Instead, it prohibits state employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on the initial application. The law has an exception for (1) positions that require a criminal background check under federal law and (2) positions for which the commission of an offense is a disqualifying event for employment under federal or state law.

The new law allows an employer to inquire about an applicant’s criminal history after the initial screening of applications, according to the bill’s summary. If an employer then asks about an applicant’s criminal history, it must give the applicant an opportunity to provide an explanation of his criminal history.

The summary states that when considering an applicant with a criminal history, a state employer must take into account:

  • The specific duties and responsibilities of the position;
  • The bearing, if any, that the applicant’s criminal history may have on his fitness or ability to perform the duties required by the position;
  • The amount of time that has elapsed since the applicant’s conviction or release;
  • The age of the applicant at the time of each offense;
  • The frequency and seriousness of each offense;
  • Any information produced by the applicant regarding his rehabilitation and good conduct since the occurrence of an offense; and
  • Any public-policy considerations with respect to the benefits of employment for applicants with a criminal history.