Fair Chance Act Ban the Box Bill Passes Senate and Heads to Desk of President

Ban the Box

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On December 17, 2019, a bipartisan “Ban the Box” bill called The Fair Chance Act that would give ex-offenders a better chance to find employment passed the United States Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and will head to the desk of U.S. President Donald J. Trump for his signature, according to a press release on the website of bill co-author U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

On December 11, 2019, the Fair Chance passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and was sent to the Senate for consideration. The Ban the Box bill – authored by U.S. Senators Booker and Ron Johnson (R-WI) – would prohibit the federal government and federal contractors from asking about the criminal history of job applicants prior to the extension of a conditional job offer. The Fair Chance Act would:

  • Prevent the federal government – including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches – from requesting criminal history information from applicants until they reach the conditional offer stage.
  • Prohibit federal contractors from requesting criminal history information from candidates for positions within the scope of federal contracts until the conditional offer stage.
  • Include important exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions requiring access to classified information, and positions for which access to criminal history information before the conditional offer stage is required by law.
  • Require the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in coordination with the U.S. Census Bureau, to issue a report on the employment statistics of formerly incarcerated individuals.

A criminal record poses a substantial barrier to employment. Criminal records reduce the chance of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent for men in general – making it difficult for individuals to move on from past convictions and contribute to society – and black men with criminal records are 60 percent less likely to receive a callback or job offer than those without records, according to the press release.

“After many fits and starts, we are finally about to give formerly incarcerated individuals a second chance by eliminating a major hurdle they face when job-searching. This legislation will immediately change lives by allowing thousands of qualified people with criminal records to more meaningfully integrate into life outside prison walls,” Senator Booker stated in the press release.

“Getting people back to work improves the safety of our communities, strengthens families, and reduces government dependence – goals that all Americans share. If someone getting out of prison wants to work and be a productive member of society, we should do everything possible to facilitate that. Today’s passage of the Fair Chance Act is an important step in that direction,” Senator Johnson stated in the press release.

Ban the Box is a fast growing nationwide movement that seeks to advance opportunities for job applicants with criminal records by eliminating any inquiry into the criminal history on initial job applications. As of December 2019, 35 states and more than 150 cities and counties have adopted Ban the Box laws, according to statistics from the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers two white papers titled “Ban the Box Now More the Rule than Exception for Employers when Screening” and “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce” along with a Ban the Box Resource Page with an interactive map with Ban the Box laws. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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