National Ban-the-Box Law Introduced to Congress

By Kelsey Basten

Published on June 6, 2017

A series of bills has recently been introduced to Congress, bringing our nation steps closer to passing a national “ban-the-box” law.

The Fair Chance Act was introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker in early April. This legislation would prohibit businesses from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history until after extending an employment offer.

For background, ban-the-box refers to getting rid of the checked box section of a job application that asks for his/her criminal history. A Harvard study in 2009 found that callback rates for ex-offenders are about 50 percent lower than rates of non-offenders. New legislation options propose different ways and times for asking an applicant about their criminal background to counter this disadvantage.

It is important to note is that the Fair Chance Act would not apply to certain jobs, such as law enforcement and national security positions.

Many states already have policies that ban the box for private or public employers, such as Vermont, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Also, Austin, TX, and Philadelphia, PA, are two of the most recent cities to pass ban-the-box ordinances.

Overall, 26 states and more than 150 cities and counties have laws and ordinances limiting employers’ access to criminal history. With this new legislation, the number could grow even more in the next year.

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