Criminal Justice

Trump Will Sign Federal 'Ban the Box' Bill Into Law as Part of Massive Spending Bill

The law will bar the federal government and its contractors from asking about criminal history in job applications.


President Donald Trump is expected to sign a bill into law today that will bar the federal government and its contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to the extension of a conditional offer of employment.

The Fair Chance Act, which was tucked into the massive defense spending bill passed by Congress earlier this week, was part of a national campaign by criminal justice advocacy groups and like-minded lawmakers to "ban the box"—referring to the question on job applications about whether one has been convicted of a crime—and reduce barriers to employment for an estimated 70 million Americans with criminal records.

"After many fits and starts, we are finally about to give formerly incarcerated individuals a second chance by eliminating a major hurdle they face when job-searching," Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.), one of the bill's cosponsors, said in a press release. "This legislation will immediately change lives by allowing thousands of qualified people with criminal records to more meaningfully integrate into life outside prison walls."

The law was supported by a bipartisan group of criminal justice organizations. Holly Harris, the executive director of Justice Action Network, said it will open "tens of thousands of federal government and contracting jobs to people who have made mistakes, but just need a chance to get a foot in the door to present their skills and qualifications."

According to the National Employment Law Project, 35 states and more than 150 cities have passed similar legislation, including red states like Georgia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Thirteen states extend those hiring requirements to private businesses.

Of course, while government should set an example for hiring practices it wishes others to follow, coercing private businesses to do so is not the preferable solution. Several major companies have voluntarily instituted "fair-chance" hiring practices, such as Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Koch Industries.

In a statement, Kanya Bennett, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the passage of the Fair Chance Act eliminates "a significant obstacle to employment faced by those reentering society from our broken criminal legal system."

"More than 70 million people in the United States have an arrest or conviction record that shows up in a criminal background check," Bennett continued. "This forces one in three prospective employees to check the box when applying for jobs."

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  1. “Several major companies have voluntarily instituted ‘fair-chance’ hiring practices, such as Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Koch Industries.”

    Well if Koch Industries did this, then it must be the right call. Because everything Charles Koch does is designed to get more highly skilled doctors and engineers into America’s workforce.


    1. I want to be sure about this: You are praising Trump for something Obama could have done, but did not?

      1. If there’s a good thing that could have happened between 2009 and 2017, the only reason Obama didn’t do it is because mean Republicans wouldn’t let him.

        1. An alternative interpretation is that POTUS Obama simply lacked the skills to persuade the House and Senate to pass the legislation. In some things, POTUS Obama was not smart.

          1. The political climate has changed, so the Dems insisted on this in their negotiations over the spending bill.
            But “ban-the-box” legislation, in addition to violating freedom of contract, can backfire by actually increasing racial discrimination, as Reason itself has noted:
            Due to this bill, employers can’t ask about criminal conviction prior to an offer, where their reason for not hiring would be too unclear to sue over. Instead, they can only ask after giving a provisional offer, meaning they have to rescind an offer for an obvious reason that can lead to a costly lawsuit over racial “disparate impact,” because of the higher black incarceration rate and crime rate. Rather than invite that risk, some small employers use race as a proxy for potential criminal convictions, and hire fewer black men, despite that being unfair. These unfortunate black men never find out why they weren’t hired. Differences in crime rates are real, as the Supreme Court noted in its Armstrong decision. The Bureau of Justice Statistic says about race and crime: “Blacks are disproportionately represented as both homicide victims and offenders.”

      2. OBL makes a good point, don’t you think?

  2. “Several major companies have voluntarily instituted “fair-chance” hiring practices, such as Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Koch Industries.”

    OK, Reason staff, what did you do?

    Ha ha, just a little joke.

    1. Oh. Thought you were referring to wood chippers.

  3. Habitual drunkards for airline pilots, anyone?

    Bank robbers for financial advisors?

    Convicted child molesters for baby sitters and day care workers?

    Immunity against negligence law suits for those who hire some pretty bad-risk new hires?

    Are they making ANY distinctions between convicted mass murderers and those who have been caught blowing on a cheap plastic flute, w/o permission?

    To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see … This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

    1. >>Bank robbers for financial advisors?

      they’re not?

    2. “Convicted child molesters for baby sitters and day care workers?”

      A lot of jobs that require you to work with kids/elderly or in a position as a caregiver ask your criminal history and then there is a separate check done to see if you have a clean background in regards to such things. So, in this instance I would imagine that the first question would be removed and the other check would still stand.

      So, if you got pulled over and charged with a DUI and it was discovered that you had kidnapped an elderly woman and drove her across state lines they will find out about Betsy tied up in the trunk, but not the DUI.

    3. “Convicted child molesters for baby sitters and day care workers?”

      Chemjeff and Original Buttplug approve. In fact, I fully expect them to open ‘Uncle Badtouch’s Daycare’ together.

    4. It seems it prohibits asking until a conditional job offer is extended. I’d imagine a conviction for kiddy touching would disqualify you from babysitting at that point. It doesn’t mandate hiring, or asking once you were almost ready to hire.

  4. Looks like Ed Snowden can apply to the NSA again!

  5. “…bar the federal government and its contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to the extension of a conditional offer of employment.”

    “OK, it says here you worked in several jobs in the financial industry, then you worked in the field of license-plate manufacture…”

  6. While this is generally positive, it’s still treating only the symptoms. Better would be actual legislative reform so we stopped locking up so many people unnecessarily in the first place. We could, for example, simply end the misnamed and disastrously self-destructive “war” on drugs.

    1. You think that people being denied employment as a result of incarceration for drug crimes is a symptom of bad drug laws. I disagree. I think people would choose not to employ drug users or dealers even if drug use was decriminalized; it’s just that incarceration makes it easier to find out.

  7. “ban the box”—referring to the question on job applications about whether one has been convicted of a crime

    How about the interview question about gaps in employment?

    “Oh, *that*. I just took some time off to find myself.”

    1. “Self employed as a consultant to government officials in the law enforcement area”.

  8. Bailout for the background check industry. they will stop asking but not stop finding.

  9. I got five dollars says most of those convictions are for plant leaves. Wouldn’t decriminalization and expungement be better than added coercion?

    1. That’s not how government works.

      1. Yeah what fun is it to be in power if you can’t fuck with people’s lives.

  10. Of course, while government should set an example for hiring practices it wishes others to follow, coercing private businesses to do so is not the preferable solution. Several major companies have voluntarily instituted “fair-chance” hiring practices, such as Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Koch Industries.

    And what, pray tell, are these “fair chance” hiring practices? Banning the box prohibits anybody from even asking about a criminal background but so far as I know it’s never been prohibited to hire somebody with a criminal background. If you ask somebody if they have a criminal record and they say yes, you can certainly inquire further – if they got busted for a little dope or something, you might not have a problem with low-level non-violent crime. If they’ve committed crimes which pertain to the sort of job they’re looking to get hired for, you really ought to be able to know about that. “I did a couple of years for beating the shit out of my last boss because he was a real asshole who kept bugging me about showing up drunk for work” should be a huge red flag in just about any hiring situation.

    1. Seems like a reasonable trade for being a contractor to fedgov.

    2. Funny how free association has it’s limits.

      Libertarianism is not about government enforcing preferred outcomes. But Reason has their own agenda.

  11. *worse racist ever*

  12. Is it possible that Drumpf can see into the future and this may benefit him somehow after he’s done stinking up the Oval Office?

    1. “an arrest or conviction” not necessarily a conviction.

      And presumably including misdemeanors. Presumably not including spending tickets and the like, but things like driving with an expired license would probably count.

      In any case, obviously 70 million Americans haven’t become un-hireable due to criminal records, so that number is irrelevant to the argument.

  13. “Ban the Box” is the best gay nightclub name ever.

    1. Their marquee says “we don’t serve fish tacos”.

    2. If you gotta box, kick rox!

    3. ‘When you’re off the clock, come and rock the cock’

  14. Tiny and limited government wouldnt really have this problem.

    There would be so few government jobs and victimless crimes would never be a crime so these problems would mostly not exist.

  15. Looking for auction Websites in India –

  16. “estimated 70 million Americans with criminal records.”

    Seriously? That’s no small slice. We’re either that bad, or have got too many laws.

    1. That is not an either – or situation.

  17. Think of the huge unemployment jump among lawyers who sue companies for damages due to actions taken by employees with criminal records. That bill also includes blanket immunity for companies that hire ex-cons, right?

    1. Part of that liability is that the employer should have known the employee was a criminal. If it’s illegal to know that, the theory of liability no longer holds.

      It will probably still be a problem. So the companies will still have to buy liability insurance. But the insurance premiums might go down.

    2. If you don’t want to take the chance, don’t contract with the feds.

  18. Employers will still conduct background checks and will still decline to hire.

  19. “as Part of Massive Spending Bill”

    I wonder how the headline would’ve read if Obama had done this?

    1. “Our lord and saviour Obama has signed the greatest act of freedom in presidential history.”

    2. The same way. They didn’t have a problem giving him shit about his ridiculous spending.

      1. “They didn’t give him shit about his ridiculous spending.”

        Fixed that for better accuracy.

  20. it’s the same crap people lie about the civil rights act. Without this, employers are free to background check or not, now they can’t, so this it’s a right, it’s a limitation.

    With the civil rights act, people have no idea what the law was before. It’s not that people were allowed to discriminate so they did. The law required them to. So they didn’t have the freedom to not discriminate.

    Take Rosa Parks and that evil bus company. Oh wait, that company was required by law to segregate. But we don’t talk about that

  21. Yet another accomplishment for the most effectively libertarian president since the 1980s — maybe the most effectively libertarian president ever.

  22. While this is, admittedly, an unexpected half-step forward, from what I’ve read, it does not specify [e.g “nonviolent-crimes”] which degree of felon it would allow to re-enter society.
    However, I, very possibly, may have missed such a detail (& I invite anyone to tell me so).

    1. It can’t, because if it makes it illegal for a government contractor (or fedgov itself) to ask whether one has a criminal record, that detail isn’t even gotten to.

  23. Got to break from the great man on this one. Protection of existing employees and customers is often paramount. We have the right to know if the government healthcare worker examining your 8 year old was a convicted pedophile, or ax murderer.

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  25. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
    I would not want a convicted felon working in my business.
    Especially if it was a violent crime or a financial crime.

  26. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

  27. Somehow we used to get along just fine not very long ago without subjecting every potential hire to criminal background checks, credit checks, and drug tests before letting them sit at a desk for 8 hours a day or ask “Do you want fries with that?” Unless there is a legitimate pressing need for a high level security clearance, these are just barriers to employment. If you have been released from prison, that is all the punishment you should have to serve for your crime. Not being allowed to work for life should not be a further punishment. If your crime was that severe you should not be allowed out of prison – say, for child rape. Just make that a mandatory life sentence.

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