U.S. Rep. David J. Trone (D-Md.) has introduced a bill that would remove the requirement to inform employers of a job applicant’s previous criminal history.
The Workforce Justice Act, introduced by Trone and House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), requires states to implement “ban the box” policies that prohibit private employers from asking about the criminal history of applicants before an offer of employment.
The aim is to remove the stigma of individuals with criminal records and provide them a fair chance to compete in the job market. Seventy-five percent of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed after one year of release.
“Banning the box results in higher retention rates and more dependable employees, and it’s just the right thing to do,” Trone said in a statement. “Right now, and especially during this economic crisis, we should ensure that all Americans, regardless of their criminal history, have access to good, well-paying jobs.”
Around 70 million Americans have an arrest or conviction record that would show up in an employment background check, a major barrier to re-entering the workforce. Individuals with criminal records receive half the number of callbacks and job offers than those who do not.
The District of Columbia and 35 states currently have “ban the box” policies, while 14 states, including Maryland, have extended these policies to private employment.
If passed, states will have three years to put “ban the box” policies in place in order to continue receiving criminal justice funding for state and local governments.
The Fair Chance Act, which banned the box for federal agencies and contractors was sponsored by the late Maryland congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D) and signed into law last year. The Workforce Justice Act would extend these policies to private employers.
“Many men and women who are anxious to find a job are being turned away with no consideration for the fact that they have served their time and are looking forward to being reintegrated into society and live a decent quality of life,” Waters said in a statement.
Trone, whose family owns the Total Wine & More, recently said the national liquor chain employs at least 500 ex-offenders across the country.
(Disclosure: The David and June Trone Family Foundation is a financial supporter of Maryland Matters.)