A violent attack in South Florida is exposing the dangers of not conducting background checks on employees, and shedding light on a unforeseen consequence of employers based in Ban the Box states.

If you don’t already know what Ban the Box is, here is a rough (and long-winded) explanation:

Job applications used to universally ask applicants to disclose whether or not they have ever been convicted of a crime, most often a felony. We say, “used to”, because a couple of years ago a grass roots movement uncovered that a disproportionate amount of minority applicants were getting passed over for jobs BECAUSE African Americans and Latinos/Hispanics are convicted of crimes at higher rates than other races. This is, says the National Employment Law Project, is called ‘structural discrimination.’ Therefore, asking job applicants to disclose whether they’ve been convicted of a crime on a job application is discriminatory. That question should be eliminated from job applications to help level the playing field between all applicants who may be qualified, regardless of their criminal history.

The theory is that a background check, which all employers SHOULD do before hiring someone, will highlight any criminal convictions and allow the employer and applicant to have an open and honest discussion about what happened. Then the employer can make a well-informed decision based on the applicant as the sum of a whole person, and not just some of the person.

It’s a popular move for cities and states to make, and is even gaining federal traction.

Here’s the rub.

What happens if an employer does not conduct background checks on its employees?

You get a situation like this. A man with a lengthy criminal history, including charges of manslaughter, forgery and lying on an application, was hired as an electrician. When he showed up to a woman’s house, he tried to rape her at knifepoint.

A background check would’ve surely discovered this criminal’s rap sheet.

We point out this case because this is the same type of situation employers in Ban the Box states can run into with SEX OFFENDERS.

If a sex offender has a felony sex crime on his/her record and doesn’t have to check a criminal convictions box on a job application AND the prospective employer does not run a background check, a business can unwittingly hire a sex offender.

A school. A nursing home. A tutoring center. A Vacation Bible School. A sports camp. All of them are vulnerable if they do not run background checks.

Now, we’re not saying Ban the Box is a bad idea. On the contrary. The reason why Ban the Box gets passed is because it is understood that the majority of businesses do background checks, and those that don’t will feel compelled to take this extra step to protect themselves, their employees and their workplaces from bad hires.

To understand the vital importance of workplace safety, read this: What is Workplace Violence and What Does it Have to do With Background Checks?

But it’s important to note how crazy it is that businesses in Ban the Box cities and states who do not conduct background checks may be hiring convicted sex offenders to work among the populations these offenders are supposed to, by law, be avoiding.

We want to hear from you. Is your business located in a Ban the Box state? Do you conduct background checks pre-hire? Why or why not?

Please SHARE this post so more people can understand the critical importance of conducting background checks on all prospective hires. We need to keep everyone safe.