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Before and After Ban the Box: Who Complies with Anti-Discrimination Law?

NCJ Number
Law and Social Inquiry Volume: 47 Issue: 3 Dated: 2022 Pages: 749-782
Date Published
34 pages

This paper examines compliance with and effects of Ban the Box (BTB) anti-discrimination laws.


The authors consider whether Ban the Box (BTB) laws, an anti-discrimination policy intended to promote employment for persons with criminal records, contributed to attitudinal or behavioral shifts among hiring managers and changes in job applications. The study finds: (1) that one in five organizations were noncompliant, with noncompliance twice as likely among employers who discriminated against applicants with criminal records pre-BTB and that widespread lack of knowledge and lack of enforcement of BTB appears to affect noncompliance; (2) organizations maintained considerable continuity in hiring practices and attitudes between 2008 and 2016, regardless of personnel changes and statewide implementation of BTB; and (3) post-BTB, strong warnings about criminal background checks at later stages of the hiring process emerged as an alternative source of gatekeeping. The authors analyze a unique set of in-depth interviews (N = 30) and entry-level job applications (N = 305) collected from the same workplaces in 2008 and 2016, assessing the impact of state BTB legislation.  The findings contribute to the law and organizations literature by highlighting the importance of enforcement and limits of law for combating discrimination. Research on law and organizations shows that firms often fail to comply with legal directives or engage in symbolic compliance that fails to alter day-to-day business practices. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2022