Fair Chance Act Restricts Employers from Asking About Criminal History

A provision in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has made it illegal for employers throughout the United States to inquire about a person’s criminal record prior to a conditional offer of employment. Known as the “Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019,” or the “Fair Chance Act” for short, the provision abolishes the section on job applications that requires a person to disclose their criminal history. The measure is aimed at improving the opportunities for those previously convicted of a crime to return to regular society and obtain honest employment.

So-called “ban the box” legislation has been a goal of criminal justice advocates for years (a term referring to the box on job applications asking for people to disclose their criminal history). The argument for laws like the Fair Chance Act is based on the idea that it is harder for criminals to reform if they can’t find legitimate employment due to their criminal history. However, criminal justice advocates have only had mixed success when it comes to passing such laws, and mostly at the state level.

However, due to a bipartisan group of sponsors, a provision was added to the NDAA, making the Fair Chance Act a part of the broader defense authorization. Thus, when the NDAA was signed into law, the Fair Chance Act became federal law along with it. As a result, it will no longer be legal for employers throughout the country to inquire into a person’s criminal history until they’ve already given a tentative offer of employment, making it less likely that they will be discriminated against for a criminal past.

If you have been the victim of discrimination in your workplace or suffered retaliation for reporting discrimination, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf during the legal process. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 39 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steve Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000.

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