Workforce Justice Act Encourages States to “Ban the Box” on Job Applications

Ban the Box

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On March 3, 2021, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (California-43rd District) and Congressman David Trone (Maryland-6th District) introduced the “Workforce Justice Act of 2021” to encourage states to “Ban the Box” on job applications for public and private companies so ex-offenders have a greater chance to gain employment.

“This legislation to ban the box would take critical steps forward to ensure that the over 70 million Americans who have an arrest or conviction record are not left behind,” Congresswoman Waters stated in a press release about the Act, which gives states three years to implement in order to remain eligible for critical criminal justice funding.

“Right now, far too many justice-impacted individuals, primarily people of color, aren’t being given a fair shot at employment because of their criminal history,” Congressman Trone stated in the press release. “Banning the box isn’t just good for business, it’s just the right thing to do and brings us one step closer to a more just society.”

Currently, many private-sector job applicants in the United States must check off a box that discloses their criminal history when applying for a job, significantly reducing the likelihood of callbacks and job offers for formerly incarcerated individuals who face astronomically high unemployment rates and risk for recidivism.

“For previously incarcerated men and women who are doing their part to reintegrate into society, the job application process is often stressful and debilitating due to the rate at which they are denied consideration for employment because of the fact that they have served time,” Congresswoman Waters stated.

“By prohibiting private employers from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to the extension of a conditional offer of employment… job applicants with a criminal history will be evaluated based on their qualifications alone and have a fair shot at rebuilding and reclaiming their lives,” she added.

The U.S. government enacted a “Ban the Box” policy for federal agencies and contractors when the “Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019” was passed and signed into law as part of the “National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020.” The complete text of the “Workforce Justice Act of 2021” is available here.

As of March 2021, 36 states, the District of Columbia, and over 150 cities and counties have adopted a “Ban the Box” policy. Fourteen states and twenty cities and counties, including Maryland and California, have extended these policies to private employment, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Ban the Box laws and second chance programs that help allow ex-offenders with a prior criminal record an opportunity to find work will continue to evolve, according to leading global background check firm Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), which compiled the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2021.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – which was ranked the #1 screening firm in 2020 by HRO Today – offers a white paper on “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce,” a “ESR Ban the Box Resource Guide,” and a Ban the Box Resource Page. 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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