Ban the Box
Civil rights and ex-offenders advocates have undertaken a concerted effort on the local and state levels to institute policies that would prohibit an employer from including a “check box” on an employment application asking potential employees about their criminal background. These “Ban the Box” proposals appear as both legislation and executive orders.
The goal of these efforts is to give reformed ex-offenders a chance to demonstrate their qualifications without discrimination for past mistakes. However, this approach poses unique challenges for CPAs and CPA firms, where trust, confidentiality, and the handling of sensitive materials are cornerstones of the CPA-client relationship. As such, the CPA profession is advocating that all “Ban the Box” proposals include targeted exemptions for CPAs and CPA firms.
State legislatures are also considering dismissing certain non-violent offenses from criminal records after a certain amount of time. For example, some proposals specifically list fraud, forgery, defrauding a secured creditor under $10,000, giving money to legislators, and theft by extortion as crimes that could be expunged from one’s criminal record after a waiting period.
Supporters argue that these policies enable former offenders to be more productive citizens, pay taxes, and meet family obligations by helping them obtain and maintain employment. However, because the handling of confidential financial information is a key part of the CPA-client relationship, CPAs and CPA firms need to be aware of past criminal records involving financial crimes. State legislatures considering such legislation should carve out exceptions for financial crimes and the CPA profession.
Many cities are considering laws that would require employers to set employee schedules several weeks in advance. Minneapolis, for example, considered a proposal that would have required employers to notify employees of work hours at least 28 days in advance. Unfortunately, these "one size fits all" proposals don't take into account businesses with unpredictable workload demand, and rarely provide exemptions for salaries employees. CPAs and CPA firms need to be able to serve their clients without having to worry about overly broad local policies that punish employers inappropriately for flexibility.
Municipalities across the nation are passing local ordinances that require employers to enact very specific sick leave policies. Unfortunately, these well-meaning policies often do not differentiate between exempt and non-exempt employees, and could potentially adversely impact the way CPA firms allocate sick time.