On July 14, 2014, the Council of the District of Columbia (“D.C. Council”) unanimously voted to “ban the box,” approving a bill that will restrict when an employer may ask a job applicant about his criminal background.  The bill will now go to Mayor Vincent Gray for his signature, and then to Congress for approval.

Under Bill 20-642, the Fair Criminal Records Screening Act -- commonly referred to as the “ban the box” bill -- a D.C. employer may only ask about an applicant’s criminal background after making a conditional offer of employment.  If the bill becomes law, the District would join 12 states that have passed similar “ban the box” legislation (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Rhode Island), and become part of a growing movement to block employers from including a check box on a job application form that asks “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

Advocates for D.C.’s “ban the box” bill assert that having to check the box prevents many ex-offenders from getting a fair shot at a job, and point out that the proposed law would not apply to employers hiring applicants for “sensitive” jobs, like child care, from asking about an applicant’s criminal history in a job application.  Those who oppose D.C.’s proposed “ban the box” bill argue that it is too burdensome on employers, as it would require employers to go through the hiring process before learning about a conviction record, and would then need to restart the process if the conviction was a non-starter, at which point prior applicants may no longer be interested in the position. 

For further information regarding this issue, please see “The Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions: A Critique of the EEOC Guidance,” Seton Hall Law Review: Vol. 43: Iss. 3, Article 3 (2013).