Report Describes ‘Ban the Box’ Bill as Balanced

Legislation (S-842) pending a Senate vote that generally would bar agencies from asking an applicant about any criminal record as an initial screening step “balances the need for an enforcement mechanism with the overall goal of encouraging federal agencies to consider hiring individuals with a criminal history when they are otherwise qualified for the position,” a Senate report on the bill says.

It says that other levels of government and many private employers already have adopted similar “ban the box” policies–named for a real or figurative box on an application asking about criminal history–and that the bill “simply addresses the timing” of when in the hiring process a federal agency will learn that information, moving it to after a conditional job offer is made.

Most agencies already put off that inquiry until later in the hiring process, it adds, and the bill would allow various exceptions, including for certain jobs involving security, law enforcement or unsupervised presence with children, as well as when training is required before even an initial job offer can be made. Those provisions largely would put into law policies ordered by the Obama administration that have been left in place by the Trump administration.

The legislation also does not prohibit employers from conducting outside research into job candidates, nor does it prohibit candidates from voluntarily disclosing their criminal history earlier before the conditional offer stage. The legislation is silent on the issue of background and credit checks for employment. Under existing law, any employers must request consent to conduct a background or credit check on an applicant for employment,” it adds.