Federal Manager's Daily Report

Bill would bar agencies and contractors from asking about criminal history prior to conditional offer being made.

A “ban the box” bill under consideration in Congress would bring federal hiring policies in line with the majority of states and improve job prospects for those with criminal records while balancing the security interests of federal agencies, says a recently filed Senate report in support of the bill.

S-387, passed by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, would generally bar federal agencies and contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to a conditional offer of employment–the so-called “box” that if checked commonly reduces an applicant’s prospects for moving any farther through the process. Agencies still could ask about it at initial stages for positions involving high levels of security or that require government-sponsored training before a conditional job offer can be made.

“Agencies generally do not currently ask about an applicant’s criminal history at the outset of the hiring process, so the legislation should not be a significant change in the process in most cases and its implementation would be relatively smooth,” the report says.

Agencies still would be free to examine an applicant’s criminal history at later stages of the process, it adds, and the bill 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 measure would apply to all branches of the federal government as well as to some government contractors. Similar legislation (HR-1076) recently advanced through the counterpart House Oversight and Reform Committee.