Senate Committee Approves "Ban the Box" Bill

October 09, 2015

This week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved by voice vote a bipartisan bill to limit criminal history inquiries by federal contractors of job applicants, a prohibition generally referred to as "ban the box."  The Fair Chance Act (S. 2021/H.R. 3470) would prohibit federal agencies and government contractors from asking about a job applicant's criminal history until after making a conditional employment offer.  However, the prohibition would not apply to positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions that require access to classified information, or those where disclosure before the conditional offer stage is required by law.  If passed, the legislation would follow the lead of 18 states that already have similar laws on the books.  Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) said: "If someone getting out of prison wants to work, wants to be a productive member of society, we should do everything we can to facilitate that.  The dignity of work is one of the best ways we can keep people from turning back to a life of crime.  This makes our communities safer, keeps families together, and makes people less dependent on the government."  Given the strong backing from both parties, the House and Senate bills are expected to move quickly through the legislative process.