“Ban the Box” Frequently Asked Questions

Fair Chance Hiring Law Essential Information

Ensuring people with criminal records have a fair chance to work


What is a “Fair Chance Hiring Law”?

Inspired by the national “Ban the Box” movement, this legislation removes questions about a job applicant’s criminal record from applications and pushes questions about an applicant’s criminal history until later in the hiring process.

How does it work in Columbia?

The City of Columbia Council passed a “Fair Chance Hiring Law” on December 1, 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.

Why was it passed?

The implementation of “Fair Chance” 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 does the ordinance apply to?

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

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 the law enforced in Columbia?

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

Are there exceptions for certain jobs?

Yes, Columbia’s legislation does not supersede 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 “Fair Chance” legislation?

The City of Columbia’s “Fair Chance” legislation can be found in the City’s Code of Ordinances (Sec. 12-90).

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