On December 20th of 2019, President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included provisions that would enact “ban the box” policy on a federal level. These provisions within the act as known as the “Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019” simply known as the “Fair Chance Act”.
The new act would give previously incarcerated individuals the opportunity to apply for positions in the federal government or employment provided by federal contracts. Federal agencies and contractors would now be strictly prohibited from looking into the criminal history of the applicant until after the employment offer was made. For those in California used to the hiring process, this would be a similar approach.
According to Title XI, Subtitle B of the NDAA (S1790) the legislation 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 exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, requiring access to classified information, and for which access to criminal history information before the conditional offer stage is required by law
According to NELP, 35 US States and over 100 cities will have passed some form of a ban the box law. In a ban the box law, it is illegal to include the checkbox requiring applicants to disclose if they have any sort of criminal history on their records. The reasoning behind this ban is to not disbar ex-criminals from finding honest work in their futures and to enable them to once again become a part of honest society.
States throughout the country have been enacting these laws fairly quickly.
Kanya Bennet, senior legislative council with the ACLU, states “more than 70 million people in the United States have a record that shows up in a criminal background check, this forces a third of [potential] employees to check the box when applying for jobs. The Fair Chance Act bans the box at the federal level, eliminating a significant obstacle to employment faced by reentering society from our broken criminal legal system. Fair chance hiring practices ensure that all people have the opportunity to invest in themselves, their families, and their communities.”