Will 'Ban the Box' Legislation Be Passed for Federal Contractors?

By Michael Klazema on 4/7/2015

In case you needed proof that "ban the box" polices were continuing to gather steam, consider this: recently, nearly 200 special interest groups banded together, asking President Obama to instate "ban the box" and "far chance" hiring practices for all federal government contractors. There is no word yet on whether or not the President is considering the request, but it does show that the practice of removing questions about criminal history from job applications is becoming more and more prevalent throughout the country.

If Obama does draft or approve "ban the box" legislation for government contractors, it could start a domino effect that would lead to a federal law banning the box nationwide. Currently, there is no denying that there is a trend in the United States to remove questions about criminal history from job applications, and to delay background checks until after conditional offers of employment have been made. So far, these laws are a patchwork, at best. They are implemented in certain areas and not others, for certain kinds of workers and not others. Any law passed at the federal level, even if it does apply only to government contract workers, would be a huge victory for proponents of "fair chance" hiring practices. The kind of policy that Obama is being urged to sign could easily pave the way for similar federal "ban the box" measures in the coming months and years.

Right now, most of the "ban the box" laws on the books aren't even statewide legislation, but local city and county ordinances, or even inter-company policies. Six states have prohibited private employers from inquiring about criminal history at certain stages of the application process, including Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Hawaii. Additional cities, from Seattle and San Francisco to Buffalo and Baltimore, have passed similar policies. Countless other cities and counties have implemented their own "ban the box" policies, for both private and public employees.

In other words, the "ban the box" trend isn't going away. On the contrary, it's following a snowball effect. In the not-so-distant future, policies like these will probably be active in every city and state in the country. If Obama and Congress do decide to ban the box for government employees and bring the trend to the federal level, it will only quicken the spread.

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