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New Bill Would Limit Criminal Background Checks

Abill (H.R. 6220) introduced by Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) would prohibit employers from asking about or checking an applicant’s criminal record until a conditional offer of employment has been made. The “Ban the Box” bill is so-named because it would even prohibit the employer from asking the applicant to mark a box on the application form indicating whether he or she has a criminal record.

Employers may check an applicant’s criminal record only if the job duties in question “may involve an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public.” The specific jobs that fit into this category, as well as what factors constitute an “unreasonable risk,” would be determined via the rulemaking process.

Opponents of the bill point out that employers are often found liable when employees commit crimes. This bill would hamper an employer’s ability to assess whether a prospective employee poses a danger to clients or other employees.

In explaining why the bill is necessary, Rep. Clarke argued: “Current conviction record screening practices for employment, which have skyrocketed in recent decades, lead to many applicants being rejected in the first round of the hiring process even if they have only committed a misdemeanor unrelated to the job. This leads to increased recidivism as people with conviction records who cannot find jobs are far more likely to commit additional crimes.”