congressA bill recently introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) would ban employers from asking candidates about their criminal past. The so-called “Ban the Box Act,” otherwise known as H.R. 6220, would forbid employers from asking these specific types of questions from “an applicant for employment or otherwise seek information about such an applicant (including through the use of any form or application) relating to whether such applicant has ever been convicted of a criminal offense.” Such inquiries would only be allowable after a conditional employment offer has been given or when the job might involve risk to other employees or the general public.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has already issued strict guidelines regarding criminal background checks and how they are used to make employment decisions. The three criteria required by the EEOC when making hiring decisions about applicants with criminal histories include: the nature and severity of the offense; the time since the offense or completion of prison sentence occurred; and the nature of the job.

The EEOC also recommends employers consider several other aspects of an applicant when making a hiring decision. They are: the facts surrounding the offense, the number of convicted offenses, the age at the time of conviction or release from prison; evidence of a history of work experience similar to the job being applied since being convicted with no evidence of further criminal conduct; the length and consistency of employment history before and after the criminal offense; efforts at rehabilitation; employment and personal references; and whether an applicant is bonded under a bonding program.

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