House Votes to Keep Government Agencies From Inquiring about Criminal History on Job Applications

Tyra Hilliard
Staff Writer

PC: Pixabay

As of early February, the House voted to ‘Ban the Box.’ The box refers to questions that inquire about an applicant’s criminal history on applications, which would become illegal for employers of federal agencies and contractors to ask about. The newly confidential information would be discussed once applicants are offered a conditional employment offer.  

The change would allow the “Fair Chance Act” to live up to its name. The act was originally established to aide incarcerated individuals increase their chances to rebuild their life post-conviction with a stable job. Human Resources experts have explained what the amendment could mean to employers.

“Currently, this legislation only prohibits federal agencies from including a criminal history box on their application and from asking these questions in interviews before a conditional job offer is made,” said President of Employco USA and human resources expert, Rob Wilson. “However, ten states including  the District of Columbia have ‘ban-the-box’ laws that apply to private employers—including California, Illinois, Hawaii, and New Jersey, and other companies such as Target have banned the box across state lines at all their locations.”

“The number of companies that are “banning the box” is expected to grow,” stated Wilson. However, he explains that the movement has no effect on how the employer interprets a person’s character or state of mental health. “In most states, you can do a criminal background check on your applicant after a tentative offer has been made. But instead of banning people outright, you will have time to interview them and find out who they really are, rather than be dissuaded by a checkbox that won’t tell you the whole story.”

The effects of the development will not be all peaches and cream.

“Possible safety concerns are only the beginning. Not only do criminal background laws vary from state to state, but they even vary from city to city,” said Wilson. “Employers will have much more legwork when it comes to staying on top of changing legislation, and they will also have to grapple with potential litigation and penalties. Therefore, many employers will likely opt to outsource their hiring to employment firms, as it will be more cost-effective, and it will remove the legal headaches.”

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