Berkeley Bans The Box

May 3, 2016

Ban The Box Checkbox

UC Berkeley is joining more than 45 cities and counties, including New York City, Richmond, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, and San Francisco who have "Banned the Box" and removed the question regarding conviction history from employment applications. This change, which was led by students who are members of the Berkeley Underground Scholars Initiative, is aligned with our university's commitment to a fair and equitable hiring process that is consistent with applicable state laws. This commitment extends to people with prior convictions.

In the past, the application form for staff positions included a place for the applicant to indicate whether or not they have a prior conviction. After careful review of the process, we have determined that placing this question at the beginning of the application is acting as a deterrent to people who may be well qualified to become a Berkeley employee and would like to apply, knowing that they will be fairly considered.

It is important to note that the health and safety of our campus community continues to be a top priority and that this change will not compromise that commitment. The review of a conviction history will occur after the qualifications for the job have been reviewed and it is determined that the individual is a finalist for the position.

What is changing and why?

  • Beginning May 1, 2016, the checkbox on the application for staff positions has been removed, ensuring that information regarding conviction history is reviewed only after all applicants are screened for skills, knowledge and experience relevant to the jobs for which they apply.
  • Reviewing responses to the checkbox is a source of considerable redundant work, failing to add value to the process, and more importantly is a deterrent to otherwise qualified applicants.
  • Asking for this information at the beginning of the application screening process sends the wrong message and one that is inconsistent with Berkeley’s value of inclusion.
  • A background check, including fingerprinting, will be done for positions designated as critical (or "sensitive") after the qualifications for the job have been reviewed, and only for candidates who are selected for hire. All offers of employment into positions designated as critical are contingent on passing the background check.

When is a background check required?

  • After we review an applicant’s qualifications for a staff job, and as a contingency of a final offer, we are required to do a background check on candidates for designated positions.  

  • Appointment to or continued employment in a critical position is contingent upon successful completion of a background check.

  • Consistent with University policy and applicable work rules, to ensure that individuals are selected who possess the qualifications to perform the duties of the position most effectively and who are best able to serve the University’s interests, the University requires job-related background information on final candidates for critical positions and employees who are promoted, reclassified, or transferred into critical positions.  

  • Background checks may include but will not necessarily be limited to confirmation of an individual’s identity, review of an individual’s conviction record, if any, or verification of any license, certificate, or degree required for appointment.

  • Except for fingerprinting, a background check is completed prior to appointing a person to a critical position.  A background check that includes fingerprinting may be completed after appointment and the results shall be used to assess the employee’s suitability for continued University employment.

What are "critical positions" and who decides?

  • Managers are responsible for determining whether a position should be designated as "critical" based on the job duties. These are sometimes referred to as "sensitive" positions.
  • Typically, these are positions with responsibilities that include access to restricted areas, computers, valuable equipment (e.g. lab personnel; custodians); working with minors (e.g. child care services, coaches, recreational sports instructors); access to cash (e.g. cashiers, collection managers); access to controlled substances (e.g. health care providers); authority over financial resources (e.g. architects, buyers, engineers); direct access to and/or responsibility for protected, or other sensitive data (e.g. auditors, IT coordinators, programmers, student affairs officers).
  • A more exhaustive list of examples of positions and the tasks or function that should be considered is provided in PPSM 21 (Section V, pages 4-7) at:

What do managers need to do?

  • Managers should review the examples of positions that require background checks provided in the PPSM 21 to confirm that their staff positions are designated as "critical" where applicable.
  • Continue to ensure that job postings for any critical positions are properly flagged so that applicants know if a background check is required.
  • Continue to get confirmation from their HR partner that the necessary background checks are satisfactorily completed prior to a final offer being made.

More information about the background check process.

Questions can be forwarded to

We'd like to thank the Berkeley Underground Scholars, who gave us invaluable feedback throughout the process review. For more information about how these students helped bring the "Ban the Box" initiative to our campus, read our story on Berkeley News.