Federal Contractors Must “Ban the Box”

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt

The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 became effective December 20, 2021, and requires federal agencies to include language in federal contracts prohibiting contractors from requesting, whether verbally or in writing, the criminal history of a job applicant for work on a federal contract until after a conditional offer of employment has been made.  As many employers already know from the myriad state and local laws already in place, the “box” refers to the fairly standard question on employment applications asking if the applicant has a criminal record.

As with the state and local laws in place, the federal law recognizes exceptions for when the background check is required by law, the position sought is in law enforcement or national security, or the position involves access to classified information.  The Office of Personnel Management will be issuing regulations later this month.  Procedures will also be put into place for applicants and private contractors to file complaints alleging violations of the law.  Penalties will escalate after an initial written warning is issued to a federal agency or private contractor that violates the law.

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