The federal Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 (Fair Chance Act) officially took effect this week on December 20, 2021.  The law was signed two years ago as Section 1123 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.

Known as the “Ban the Box” Act, it prohibits federal contractors from asking applicants seeking work under federal contracts about their criminal histories until after the contractor extends a conditional job offer. On many job applications, the criminal history or record question is answered by checking a box stating “Yes” or “No.” This new restriction is intended to make it easier for people with a record to get jobs.

Exceptions to the restriction include when consideration of the criminal history record is required by law; the employee will have access to classified information; or the employee will perform sensitive law enforcement or national security duties.

From a practical standpoint, federal contractors should review their hiring policies and application requirements. And keep in mind the existing “Ban the Box” laws in many locales — 35 states and over 150 cities and counties — may add additional requirements or restrictions on top of the federal ones.