Why a State-Specific Job Application Matters

Getting hired in today’s competitive and ever-changing healthcare industry can be challenging – especially if you’re a job seeker with a criminal record.  
The hiring process gets even trickier when questions arise about salary history, which can lead to gender and race-based wage discrimination. As a result, a growing number of cities and states have banned employers from asking candidates about their criminal or salary history during the job application and hiring process.
Not clear on the restrictions? An HRdirect Smart Apps survey of 274 small businesses nationwide showed that many employers don’t know the law of the land and may be violating it by asking prospective employees illegal questions on job applications.
If you’re a healthcare provider in a location where either of these limitations is in place or scheduled to go into effect, it’s important to understand their purpose and the implications for your business.
Let’s take a closer look at the details surrounding these two trending hiring issues.
Does Your State Ban the Box?
Having a criminal conviction on your record is an issue that affects 70 million Americans and can be a serious disadvantage when it comes to finding work.
In fact, studies show that when people check the box in an initial application, their likelihood of a callback drops by half if they’re white and to almost a third if they’re a person of color, according to National Public Radio.
“Ban the Box” laws restrict an employer from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until the job interview — or, in some cases, after the applicant is qualified and offered a position. By delaying a conviction inquiry until later in the hiring process, employers can help support a fairer job market for the millions of people with criminal records.
The HRdirect Smart Apps survey showed that 28 percent of the respondents believed their state DIDN’T enforce ban the box. Yet, 63 percent of those respondents were WRONG because their businesses were in states that do, indeed, ban the box.”
The results revealed a widespread lack of knowledge about what’s legal and what’s not. To date, 29 states and more than 150 cities and counties representing nearly every region of the country have adopted the laws designed to reduce hiring barriers for individuals with criminal histories —Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Some of these states – including California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia – have removed the conviction history question on job applications for both public and private employers.
How Ban the Box Affects Your Hiring Process
As you can see, there’s considerable confusion regarding the workplace rules with ban the box legislation. It’s important to understand that you’re not prohibited from conducting a legally sound background check on an otherwise-qualified individual. Nor are you required to hire an individual with a criminal record. Instead, the purpose of the legislation is to shift the criminal history inquiry from the initial application stage until later in the hiring process, when you hold an interview or extend a conditional job offer.
Some additional considerations:
  • Ban the box laws may restrict inquiries to certain types of convictions, barring questions about non-conviction arrests or expunged records
  • Certain industries and jobs may be exempt, such as positions in childcare, health care, law enforcement and finance
What can employers do to comply with the new ban the box laws? First and foremost, review and revise all employment applications to ensure they don’t include a criminal history question. Next, modify your hiring procedures to delay any inquiries about criminal history until it’s appropriate, making certain your hiring managers understand the requirements and how to handle conversations about criminal history with potential hires.
Also, keep in mind that relying on generic job applications, which are widely available through HR forms sites and providers, can be a problem. These “one size fits all” forms often overlook ban the box and other state-specific requirements. An attorney-approved, fully compliant job application, on the other hand, helps you screen candidates according to the latest legal limits.
Why Some States Are Banning Salary History Questions
Criminal history inquiries aren’t the only restriction employers need to be aware of today. In a growing number of cities and states, employers are also banned from asking job seekers about their salary history during the job application and hiring process.
States that have banned salary history questions include California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Delaware – although these bans may not be in effect until 2018.
Cities that have made it illegal include New York City, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans.
The rising tide of support for a ban on salary history is largely due to concerns about gender- and race-based wage discrimination. The law is designed to prevent employers from using past compensation as a basis for current salary and benefits negotiations with job applicants. So, if a person were underpaid in a previous job, a potential employer couldn’t ask about salary history and use the low pay to influence the salary offer.
The laws banning the salary history question usually apply to both government and private sector employers of any size. The law in California, effective January 1, 2018, has a special provision that requires employers, if asked, to provide applicants the potential pay scale for the position.
In New York City, the law went into effect at the end of October 2017 and is being enforced by the NYC Commission on Human Rights. On its website, the Commission noted that, “Inquiring about salary history during the hiring process often creates a cycle of inequity and discrimination in the workplace, which perpetuates lower salaries specifically for women and people of color.”
Tips for Handling Pay Negotiations
To avoid trouble when addressing salary with potential hires, you should:
Establish a range based on the position
  • You should already know what you’re willing to pay for a particular position based on the going value in the talent market. Qualifications and skills will help you figure out if applicants fall at the low or high end of the salary range.
 Request a salary expectation
  • By asking applicants for their desired salary range, you’ll know if they fall within or outside of the budget for that position.
Engage in transparent, industry-recognized negotiations
  • Using a market-based salary that considers experience, qualifications and skills is a good way to build trust and prevent potential employees from thinking they will be underpaid.
Hassle-Free Hiring with an Online Job Application
Hiring employees is becoming increasingly complicated, and the salary history question is yet another pitfall that businesses need to avoid. It’s up to you to make sure your job applications comply with the laws of your state or municipality – a task that becomes even more difficult if you have offices in multiple locations.
Now you can eliminate the work and worry of checking and revising your job application every time the laws change. With the Job Applications Smart App, you can easily recruit candidates online and remain legally compliant while doing so. Not only will your applications be specific to your state, but they will also be updated as legal requirements change.
All questions are attorney-approved. Learn more about how the Job Applications Smart App can simplify your recruiting and hiring process at HRdirect Smart Apps.
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