Legislation introduced on July 26, 2012 would make it unlawful for an employer to ask job applicants whether they have ever been convicted of a crime until after a conditional offer of employment is made, except in limited circumstances. Specifically, the Ban the Box Act (H.R. 6220), introduced by Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI), would prevent an employer from “mak[ing] inquiries of an applicant for employment or otherwise seek[ing] information about such an applicant (including through the use of any form or application) relating to whether such applicant has ever been convicted of a criminal offense.” The measure would permit such questions only after a conditional offer for employment has been made, or where offering the applicant the position before a criminal background check is conducted “may involve an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public.”

The bill would direct the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to issue regulations defining the categories of employment applicable to the limited exceptions, and factors that employers would consider in assessing whether an individual's past criminal history poses an unreasonable risk.

Aggrieved job applicants would be able to avail themselves of the same rights and remedies offered to them under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The bill is not expected to advance this year. In April the EEOC approved enforcement guidance governing the legality of considering a job applicant’s or employee’s criminal history when making hiring or other employment decisions.