A Federal Ban The Box Bill Passed In The House​

December 17, 2019
The House of Representatives approved a bill that would prohibit most federal employers from asking about convictions on job applications.
Backgrounds Online | December 17, 2019


The House of Representatives approved a bill that would prohibit most federal employers from asking about convictions on job applications.

The Fair Chance Act

A proposed bill called the Fair Chance Act seeks to create a federal Ban the Box law. It would prohibit federal employers from including question about a job seeker’s criminal history on applications. Currently, applicants can be asked to check a box if they have any type of criminal record. People who do may be less likely to receive further consideration regardless of their qualifications and eligibility.

The Fair Chance Act was authored by Senators Cory Booker and Ron Johnson. Their goal is to give “formerly incarcerated individuals a better chance to find employment.” According to a Press Release issued by Booker, having a criminal record reduces “the chance of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent” in general. That percentage increases for some ethnicities.

To help people with convictions find employment, this bill calls for the federal government to:
- Require federal employers to extend a conditional job offer before requesting a candidate’s criminal history.
- Prohibit federal contractors from inquiring about criminal records until the conditional offer stage is reached within the scope of a contract.
- Require the Bureau of Justice Statistics to create a report regarding employment of formerly incarcerated individuals.

On December 11, 2019, the Fair Chance Act was passed by the House of Representatives as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Next it will move on to the Senate. Read the bill.

Exceptions And Background Checks

This bill creates exceptions for certain types of federal positions. Job applications for national security personnel and law enforcement could still include questions about criminal records. The same would be true for positions that involve access to classified information or for which applicable law requires a criminal records check prior to the conditional offer stage.

If the bill is passed, federal employers would still be encouraged and expected to run background checks on seemingly qualified candidates. Applicants who have convictions that make them ineligible could have their offers revoked after an employer completes the federally mandated adverse action process.

Support For The Bill

Eight Senators sponsored the bill, which is also endorsed by The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), FreedomWorks, Justice Action Network, National Employment Law Project and other notable organizations.

Sponsor and co-author Senator Johnson commented that this bill has a goal all Americans share. He stated that The Fair Chance Act aims to get people back to work, which would help create safer communities, strengthen families and reduce government dependence.

Senator Booker was quoted in the Press Release as saying: “Each year, approximately 650,000 people are released from prison and 9 million from jails and we must remove the barriers they face when job-searching to give them the hope of a second chance. This legislation restores the dignity of work for formerly incarcerated people and puts our goals of justice, rehabilitation, and redemption at the center of our criminal justice system.”

Ban The Box Laws: What Employers Should Know

Hundreds of Ban the Box and other Second Chance laws are currently active in the United States. Employers must be aware of and compliant with laws that are in effect where they operate. These laws vary by location, so employers are urged to consult with legal counsel to help ensure compliance.

Employers should also be aware that they are expected to conduct due diligence and run comprehensive background checks when bringing on employees, contractors and volunteers. Organizations rely on these reports to help them build strong teams, create safe workplaces and make informed decisions.

When you’re ready to request background checks, please contact us. Our experienced team provides educational resources about state, federal and local laws and can help you create background screening packages that are ideal for any position in your industry. We are available to assist you Monday through Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.