This summer, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would prohibit an employer from inquiring whether an applicant for employment has been convicted of a criminal offense. The federal “Ban the Box Act” allows for two exemptions: when a conditional offer of employment has been made or if granting employment could pose unreasonable safety risks to specific individuals or the general public.
If the bill passes, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) would be required to issue rules and guidelines for employers to follow. They would define the categories in which an applicant’s criminal history would pose such a safety risk, and the factors to consider when making the determination that hiring an individual poses unreasonable risks.
The bill’s sponsor is Representative Hansen Clarke (D-MI), who has said the goal is to curtail recidivism, since individuals with criminal histories who cannot get jobs are more likely to commit additional crimes. Co-sponsors of the bill are John Conyers, Bobby Rush, Charles Rangel, Frederica Wilson and Keith Ellison.
According to GovTrack.us, a website that provides information on pending legislation and members of Congress, the bill is currently is in Committee, awaiting a report. The site’s prognosis is that the bill as a 2% chance of being enacted, mostly because just 4% of all House bills in 2009 – 2010 were enacted.
“The Box” refers to the area on an employment application where applicants are required to check a box if they have been convicted of a crime. Many states and municipalities across the U.S. have enacted such bans for themselves and employers of certain sizes. Some prohibit criminal background checks and employment screening until a conditional employment offer has been issued. Others allow criminal history checks if a conviction is related to the position.
Employers should check the laws in their localities, and utilize only a professional, trusted background check provider such as CriminalData.com.