Nebraska Decides to ‘Ban the Box” – But Only For Public Employers

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Last week, Gov. Dave Heineman signed off on a ban the box provision for the State of Nebraska.

The “box” in question is the somewhat controversial check-box on job applications that asks prospective employees about their criminal histories. In this case, the ban applies only to public employers in the state.

The box has become a target for advocates who claim that it eliminates ex-offenders from jobs prematurely. Nebraska’s ban the box provision was a small part of a much broader act covering job training programs, mental health and transitional services, and other provisions meant to ease overcrowding in state facilities.

A Red State-Blue State issue?

One political blog touted the fact that the State of Nebraska had become the first “red” state in the country to ban the box. I thought it was interesting to see the issue placed in the context of red state-blue state analysis.

It makes sense that ban the box has been quick to catch on in states that lean left. The addition of a conservative state to the growing list of those that have enacted some version of ban the box is notable. We’ll see if the trend continues in other red states. The fact that Nebraska’s law is limited in scope (public employers only) and did not have a negative impact on the business community probably helped it pass.

The bill passed with “little fanfare,” said a spokesperson for Gov. Heineman. It was approved by the Nebraska Legislature on a vote of 46-0.

State Senator Brad Ashford, D-Omaha, said of the bipartisan support, “Whenever we get 46-to-0, it’s quite an accomplishment. These are conservative Republicans so you have to be pleased that there’s a coming together of conservatives and liberals.”

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Ban the box laws vary wildly

Employers everywhere need to keep up with ban the box laws, which has become a full time job. See the related stories here on Target Corporation, the City of San Francisco, and other jurisdictions.

Unfortunately, no two ban the box laws are created equal. Employers who are looking for clarity are out of luck. What they are getting is complexity and confusion.

I recommend talking to your legal counsel for advice on how to comply with ban the box. Your screening provider is a good resource for administrative solutions. Stay tuned for more updates.

This was originally published on the EmployeeScreen IQ blogEmployeeScreen IQ is not a law firm, and the contents of this article are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice.

Angela Preston is senior vice president and counsel, corporate ethics and compliance for SterlingBackcheck.com. Angela has broad industry experience including more than 20 years as a licensed attorney and 12 years as a leader and expert in the background screening industry. She has extensive expertise in employment law, privacy law, EEO law, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Contact her at Angela.Preston@sterlingbackcheck.com.

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