Ban the Box Act would Prohibit Most Employers from Asking Applicants about Criminal Records until Job Offer

New legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives – H.R. 6220, “Ban the Box Act of 2012” –  would prohibit most employers from asking about or checking a job applicant’s criminal record until after a conditional offer of employment and would “ban the box” that job applicants are asked to mark indicating whether they have a criminal record. Introduced by Representative Hansen Clarke (D-MI), H.R. 6220 would allow employers to check an applicant’s criminal record only if the job duties in question “may involve an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public.” The text of the bill is available here: H.R. 6220, “Ban the Box Act of 2012”.

“By making it incredibly difficult for people with conviction records to find jobs, current employment practices lead to hopelessness and result in more poverty and crime,” Representative Clarke stated in a press release posted on his website. “This legislation is aimed at empowering people to take responsibility for their communities and their lives.”

The press release states that H.R. 6220 “would help prevent employment discrimination against people with conviction records” and is aimed at “reducing crime and unemployment by giving people with conviction records a second chance” since “people with conviction records who cannot find jobs are far more likely to commit additional crimes.” The specific jobs that H.R. 6220 decides “may involve an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public,” as well as what factors would constitute an “unreasonable risk,” would be determined through the rulemaking process.

Several cities across the country have already joined the ‘Ban the Box’ movement in an effort to provide fair employment opportunities for ex-convicts. A Resource Guide from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) – ‘Ban the Box: Major U.S. Cities and Counties Adopt Fair Hiring Policies to Remove Unfair Barriers to Employment of People with Criminal Records’ – updated in February 2012 features a list of cities and counties that have banned the box that includes: Alameda County, CA; Atlantic City, NJ; Austin, TX; Baltimore, MD; Berkeley, CA; Boston, MA; Bridgeport, CT; Cambridge, MA; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Cumberland County, NC; Detroit, MI; Hartford, CT; Jacksonville, FL; Kalamazoo, MI; Memphis, TN; Minneapolis, MN; Multnomah County, OR; Muskegon County, MI; New Haven, CT; Norwich, CT; Oakland, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Providence, RI; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; St. Paul, MN; Travis County, TX; Washington, DC; and Worcester, MA.

The use of criminal records by private sector employers has come under greater scrutiny recently. At a meeting on April 25, 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination – voted to approve updated Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

For information about criminal background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and nationwide background screening firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at, call 415.898.0044, or email


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