WASHINGTON, DC – This week, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced legislation to give formerly incarcerated individuals a fairer chance at finding a job after serving their time. The bipartisan Fair Chance Act would prohibit the federal government and federal contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to a conditional offer of employment.
Across the U.S., 33 states and over 150 cities and counties have implemented fair chance polices in order to remove a significant barrier to employment for people with criminal records. Not having to “check the box” about a past criminal conviction on a job application would give formerly incarcerated people a fairer chance to secure employment. For individuals trying to turn the page on a difficult chapter in their lives, a criminal conviction poses a substantial barrier to employment.
“I’m proud that the Senate passed the First Step Act last Congress – but as the name suggests, it was just a first step. Now we need to keep working to fix the inequities in our criminal justice system. Fair hiring practices help ensure that people who have served their time can reenter the workforce without continuing to be punished for their past mistakes,” said Senator Brown. “All Americans deserve the chance to earn a living and make a positive contribution to their communities.”
The bill was introduced by Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senators Brown, Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) are all original cosponsors of the bill. Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Doug Collins (R-GA) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives, making the Fair Chance Act a bipartisan, bicameral effort.
The Fair Chance Act would:
- Prevent the federal government—including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—from requesting criminal history information from applicants until they reach the conditional offer stage;
- Prohibit federal contractors from requesting criminal history information from candidates for positions within the scope of federal contracts until the conditional offer stage;
- Include important exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions requiring access to classified information, and positions for which access to criminal history information before the conditional offer stage is required by law; and
- Require the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in coordination with the U.S. Census Bureau, to issue a report on the employment statistics of formerly incarcerated individuals.
More than 70 million Americans who have criminal histories are faced with the daunting task of securing employment. They face improbable odds in finding a job as a result of an arrest or criminal conviction. Studies show that a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent for men in general. African-American men with criminal records have been 60 percent less likely to receive a callback or job offer than those without records.