Federal government contractors will need to be aware of the Fair Chance Act, a recently enacted statute that is scheduled to go into effect on December 20, 2021.  The Act is a “ban-the-box” law that prohibits covered employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history in the early stages of the hiring process.  The Act prohibits the federal government and federal contractors from requesting criminal history information until job applicant is made a conditional offer of employment.

The purpose of the law is to give individuals with prior criminal convictions a better opportunity at obtaining employment by deferring inquiry into their criminal history.

The Act implements a progressive disciplinary policy for violators of its prohibitions.  A federal contractor’s first violation will result in a warning.  Any subsequent violations could result in the suspension of payments owed under the relevant government contract.  Likewise, an individual making a hiring decision for a federal agency who violates the Act will receive a warning that is filed in the employee’s official personnel record file.  Subsequent violations could lead to suspensions and civil penalties.

There are exceptions to the Act.  For example, if the position is related to law enforcement and national security duties, requires access to classified information, or requires a criminal history investigation pursuant to law, then a pre-offer criminal history inquiry is permitted.

Ban-the-box laws affect many parts of the hiring and employment process.  Federal contractors and federal agencies should review and revise their hiring practices, application forms, policies, and procedures to ensure compliance.  If you have any questions regarding your compliance with the Act, please do not hesitate to contact McNees’ Labor and Employment Group.