Recent legislation in states such as Michigan and Illinois are fighting to "Ban the Box," or remove questions relating to felony convictions on job applications. According to the January 2014 issue of Franchise Times, "10 states and several cities" have already made provisions requiring the removal of the felony "check box" on applications. And in 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed two lawsuits claiming race-based discrimination. Their goal: To ensure answers to criminal history questions are not used to automatically eliminate job candidates from the running.
So what does this mean for your hiring process? Well depending on your city or state, you may have to remove questions related to felony convictions on your job applications. More over, if conducting background checks, your approach may need adjusting. For cities like Chicago and Oakland, background checks can only be conducted after a conditional offer of employment has been granted. Richmond, a suburb of San Francisco, passed legislation in 2013 barring any city contractor from "ever inquiring about many job applicants' criminal histories."
While it's important to note that such legislation is currently [primarily] limited to municipalities, "banning the box" is something to keep in mind when hiring. The laws are always changing, so make sure you do your homework before you find yourself engaged in illegal hiring practices.