‘Fair Chance Act’ to take effect next December

If, like a lot of businesses, your company does contract work for the federal government, you should be aware of the Fair Chance Act, a new federal law scheduled to take effect in December 2021 that bars the federal government and federal contractors from asking job applicants about their criminal history early on the hiring process.

This new measure follows a trend of cities and states passing “ban the box” laws that prevent employers from using arrest records and/or prior criminal convictions as a screening mechanism. The idea behind these laws is to give those with a criminal past the opportunity to find work instead of being eliminated automatically at the outset.

Employers who violate the new federal law will face a progressive disciplinary policy consisting of a warning for the first violation and potential suspension of payments due under the relevant contract for subsequent violations. Repeat violators can also face civil penalties.

The act does not apply to jobs related to law enforcement or national security. It also does not apply to jobs that require access to classified information or which would otherwise require a criminal history investigation under the law. In those cases, a criminal history inquiry is allowed before extending an offer.

If your company does government contract work, you should consult an employment attorney to review every facet of your hiring process to ensure compliance.

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