“Ban the Box” Frequently Asked Questions

What is “Ban the Box”?

“Ban the Box” is a national movement to enact legislation that removes questions about a job applicant’s criminal record from applications and pushes questions about an applicant’s criminal history till later in the hiring process.

How does it work in Columbia?

The City of Columbia Council passed “Ban the Box” legislation on December 1st, 2014. The City of Columbia’s ordinance applies to all employers within the city limits of Columbia and was effective after the date of passage. The legislation prohibits employers from having questions about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application, and from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history, such as  a background check, until after a conditional job offer. A conditional job offer means that employment is contingent upon the results of a criminal background check, much in the same way that a drug test works. The legislation does encourage employers to consider the nature of an offense, time passed since the offense, and actions taken after the offense to be considered for applicants found to have a record.


The implementation of “Ban the Box” legislation was one of the recommendations from the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence which was charged with bringing forward recommendations to reduce violence in Columbia. The legislation creates a fairer employment process for returning offenders. Questions about criminal history can be a deterrent for applicants with a record, and can be used to easily screen out ex-offenders before their other qualifications are considered. Full-time employment is the best predictor for reducing the chance that an ex-offender will reoffend. There are numerous benefits for lowering recidivism rates and getting ex-offenders back into society with gainful full-time employment.

Who can make a complaint?

Anyone can submit a written complaint regarding an application in Columbia found to have questions regarding criminal history. Complaints that an employer inquired about an applicant’s criminal history before a conditional offer of employment need to be submitted by the applicant.

How is “Ban the Box” enforced in Columbia?

Complaints about violations concerning Columbia’s “Ban the Box” legislation are handled by the Human Rights Commission. The Commission’s goal is to find resolution through mediation and only recommend prosecution when necessary.

Who does the ordinance apply to?

The ordinance applies to all employers within the city limits of Columbia who are subject the City of Columbia’s ordinances.

Are there exceptions for certain jobs?

Yes, Columbia’s legislation does not supercede state and federal laws that prohibit the hiring of people with certain violations.

When can an employer ask about an applicant’s criminal record?

Employers are not prohibited from running a background check and they are not required to hire ex-offenders. The legislation requires that inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history take place with a conditional job offer after all other qualifications have been considered.

Where can I find the City of Columbia’s Ban the Box legislation?

The City of Columbia’s “Ban the Box” legislation can be found in Chapter 12 of the City’s Code of Ordinances.

Who can I contact with questions?

City of Columbia – Law Department
701 E. Broadway, 2nd Floor
P.O. Box 6015
Columbia, MO 65205
(573) 817-5024
Fax (573) 442-8828