Federal “Ban the Box” Bill Introduced in U.S. Congress

Bipartisan, Bicameral Group of Lawmakers Unveil Legislation Aimed at Federal Contractors

“Ban the box” legislation has been introduced for the first time at the federal level, reflecting a broader trend witnessed in dozens of states and municipalities.  On September 10, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers in both houses of Congress introduced the Fair Chance Act (S. 2021  / H.R. 3470), which would prohibit federal agencies or contractors from asking prospective employees about whether they have a criminal record before a formal job offer has been extended.  Once a conditional offer of employment has been made, an employer would be permitted to ask about the applicant’s criminal record and revoke the offer based on the results of a criminal background check.

The proposed law includes exceptions for “sensitive positions,” including law enforcement, national security, and positions with access to classified information. Protection is provided in the bill for whistleblowers who report coworkers for not following the law, and penalties range from a warning for a first violation to suspensions of increasing length, up to a $1,000 fine for subsequent violations.

The Fair Chance Act was introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD).  Co-sponsors of the bill are Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI); Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Sherrod Brown (D-OH); and Joni Ernst (R-IA); Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA); Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) Cedric Richmond (D-LA); John Conyers (D-MI), and Bobby Scott (D-VA).

The lawmakers supporting the bill said that as many as 70 million people with criminal histories may face barriers to employment and highlighted that 18 states and more than 100 local entities have already enacted similar measures, with private employers following suit by adopting internal company policies to ban the box.

The Fair Chance Act is currently pending in committee in both chambers, and will be the subject of a hearing on October 7 in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

To read the Fair Chance Act please (S. 2021 / H.R. 3470).

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This article was originally published by the Akin Group and NAPBS Government Relations Committee.

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