How fair chance hiring laws impact your business

July 15 2021
4 min read

Did you know that anywhere from 70-100 million people have a criminal record in the United States? Even after they complete a sentence, they can find it extremely difficult to obtain employment. 

Fair chance hiring laws are used to change that. But complying with them can be tricky for businesses because there are many different laws and stipulations.

More than 150 cities and counties and 36 states and the federal government have fair chance laws. The bulk of the laws delay when a prospective employer can ask for criminal history for government hiring. In 14 states, the law has been extended to private companies too. 

Those laws are also known as “ban the box” laws, which are based on the box you check on an employment application if you have criminal records. 

The theory behind the laws is that people with criminal records can improve their chances of getting hired. They can show their qualifications without having the negative of a criminal history hurting their chances.  

Here are some FAQs about fair hiring laws and how they impact employers and job candidates. 

What is a fair chance hiring law?

The central part of fair chance hiring law is that you can’t ask a candidate about a criminal history or convictions until after you make a conditional offer. But there are other provisions. 

Ban the box laws also integrate the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission arrest and conviction record guidelines. Employers are mandated to consider how much time has passed since the offense. Employers must consider if the crime was related to the job and what types of rehabilitation the applicant completed. 

What is the Fair Chance Act?

The Fair Chance Act is a federal law known as the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019. It prohibits federal employers and private employers with federal contracts from asking about criminal history or convictions until a conditional offer is made. It officially takes effect in December of 2021. 

Do fair chance hiring laws ban background checks?

No, they do not. Employers are not prevented from seeking an applicant’s criminal history. The laws only delay when the employer seeks out criminal history. 

Do fair chance laws force you to hire the applicant?

Fair chance laws do not require employers to hire applicants. If you own a business, you can hire whatever candidate you feel is best for your position. 

Are there any limitations on fair chance hiring laws?

Yes, depending on what the local or state law is in your area. Some laws allow for criminal history checks only if hiring for a sensitive position. Background checks can also be limited to recent convictions. 

Laws in some areas exempt businesses with a certain number of employees. Others allow firms to conduct the background check if the candidate is being considered for the job, while a different mandate for some requires a conditional offer of employment to be made before the criminal check.

If a conviction is on a record, some laws require companies not to use that fact on its own in the hiring process. The laws make the employer consider the nature of the offense and compare it to the job requirements. Other requirements can also come into play, like people who committed crimes against a child cannot work in childcare or school settings. There is also a list of healthcare professionals who are banned for convictions. 

Have the laws helped people?

Yes, fair hiring laws have helped communities in a few different ways. First, people with court records have found it easier to get jobs. A 2016 study found that candidates with criminal records were hired, not just called back on the applications. Second, the policies have created more tax revenue and safer communities. 

What are the penalties for ban the box laws?

If you fail to comply with a law, you could be subject to civil penalties. Those penalties can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars for each violation. Violations can also trigger unfair-hiring lawsuits. It’s best to work with an expert in background checks like Orange Tree Screening to ensure the law in your local area is followed. The laws also require high standards of accuracy and transparency for background checks and protect against any arbitrary treatment. 

What disclosures must you make for fair chance hiring?

Employers must tell the candidate if the decision was at least partly based on the background check of criminal records. The employer has to write the candidate a letter and say what exactly is an issue in the applicant’s history. If anything is inaccurate, the candidate has the right to correct the mistake. The law also allows the candidate to address their criminal history to the employer. 

Some laws also require the employer to use forms that notify the candidate of what was found on the criminal background check and explain the process. 

Don’t run afoul of fair chance laws

With so many federal, state, and municipal fair chance hiring laws, you must work with an experienced background check firm to ensure that you are fully compliant with your screening process. 

Orange Tree can help you comply with fair chance hiring laws and perform fast criminal background checks so you can make hiring decisions quickly.  

Schedule a call to learn how Orange Tree can help your company comply with fair chance laws! 


Share this post: