Ohio, Cleveland, Akron, Warren, Youngstown and Other Public Employers “Ban the Box” on Felony Convictions

On March 23, 2016, the Ohio legislature joined a number of cities in Northeast Ohio, including Cleveland, Akron, Warren and Youngstown as well as some counties and other states by prohibiting public employers from including “any question concerning the criminal background of the applicant” on their applications for employment. The “Ohio Fair Hiring Act” does permit a public employer to include a statement  notifying applicants  of any provision of state or federal law that disqualifies an individual with a certain criminal history from a particular position.  The law does not cover private employers.

Public employers still are able to ask applicants during interviews about their criminal history and rehabilitation.  They also can conduct criminal background checks.  Ohio’s “ban the box” law gives individuals an opportunity to explain the circumstances of their past offenses and expand on the subsequent changes they have made in their lives.  Also, Ohio’s law gives employers an opportunity to consider more than just the narrow fact that the applicant has a conviction.  The interviewer can explore the broader spectrum, including, for example, the nature of the conviction, mitigating circumstances, rehabilitation, the age of the individual at the time the crime was committed and the amount of time that has since passed.  In short, except in those instances where state or federal law disqualifies an individual, public employers no longer will be able to institute a blanket prohibition against applicants with a criminal history.