The Fair Chance Act (FCA), which is also known as “Ban the Box”, is a law which has been enacted in various areas of the country over the last decade. In 21 states, and more than 100 cities, some form of this law has been put in place. On a national level, companies such as Target, Walmart, Starbucks, and Home Depot have enacted “Ban the Box” policies.

The FCA is a set of rules that ensure all job applicants have a fair chance when applying for a job. It helps to prevent discrimination of applicants on the basis of a criminal record. It has been deemed a best practice by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In areas where this law exists, employers can no longer have the conviction history check-box on job applications. Employers are also not allowed to inquire about an applicant’s criminal record during an interview, or at any point in the hiring process before the applicant has been offered a job.

The FCA can give formerly convicted people a fair chance, helps reduce recidivism, and strengthen communities. It allow all applicants to be considered based on their qualifications, skills, and experience first, instead of assumptions based on their criminal record alone. Employers benefit from this law as well. They get a wider range of applicants that they can consider for the job.

After a job offer has been made, the employer can conduct a background check and inquire about the existence of a criminal record. If a criminal record exists, the employer must decide if this record is directly related to the job, the nature of the offense, the age of the applicant at the time of the offense, if hiring the applicant would pose a risk, and positive life changes.

If the applicant is denied because of a criminal record, a copy of the record, or the background check, on which the basis of this decision was made, along with an explanation of why the job offer was revoked, must be given to the applicant. After receiving this information, the applicant has three days to respond. In this time, the applicant can show evidence of good conduct, rehabilitation, contest inaccuracies, and other things that may change the decision of the employer.

The FCA does not prevent employers from running background checks, it delays when they are allowed to run them, and ensures they are used fairly. It also does not require employers to hire applicants with criminal records. Law enforcement agencies, and employers who are prohibited by law from hiring people with specific convictions, are exempt from this law. Likewise, positions involving working with children and other vulnerable people can also screen based on a criminal record.

According to the New York Times, “Seventy million Americans have criminal histories that can limit their job opportunities or shut them out of work altogether. This sometimes means they had an arrest that never led to conviction, faced charges that were eventually dismissed or committed minor crimes in the distant past.”