Cummings, Issa Build Bipartisan Momentum for Fair Chance Act

Nov 5, 2015
Press Release

Cummings, Issa Build Bipartisan Momentum for Fair Chance Act


Washington, D.C. (Nov. 5, 2015)—Today, Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Darrell Issa (R-CA) hosted a bipartisan briefing on fair chance hiring policies, including the Fair Chance Act, legislation they introduced to require the federal government and its contractors to wait to ask about the criminal histories of job applicants until they receive conditional offers of employment.

Cummings and Issa were joined by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Robert Dold (R-IL), and Patrick Murphy (D-FL).  The briefing, to help inform congressional staff, comes days after President Obama announced measures to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter society, including directing the Office of Personnel Management to modify federal hiring rules so questions about applicants’ criminal histories come later in the hiring process.

“When you serve your time and are unable to get a job to support yourself and your family when you get out, it’s like a life sentence,” Cummings said. “Congressman Issa and I disagree on many things, but we agree on this issue.  As we explored in today’s briefing, state and local advocates, company leaders, and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle understand that fair chance hiring policies reduce recidivism, break generational cycles of crime, and make our communities safer.”

“I was happy to participate in a briefing about the Fair Chance Act this morning.  It’s an important bill that will help people put their criminal pasts behind them and move forward as productive members of society through hard work and the dignity that comes from having a job.  Most importantly, it will go a long way in helping to reduce recidivism throughout the country in the process,” Issa said.

“The Fair Chance Act is an example of how there is bipartisan momentum at the federal level to reform our criminal justice system by using an evidence-based approach,” said Scott “The Fair Chance Act would prohibit Federal agencies and contractors from inquiring about the criminal history information of a candidate until he or she is given a conditional offer of employment. This bill does not call for the automatic hiring of ex-felons, but reinforces the basic concepts of a fair chance and individual assessments. We can pass a smart, measured bill that tells ex-felons that have served their time, that there is a fair chance to secure employment in the federal sector. This will rebuild families, reduce recidivism, strengthen communities, and save the taxpayers’ money.”

“It’s no coincidence that the number of Americans living in our nation’s most impoverished communities has doubled at the same time as the number of people on probation and parole,” Dold said. "While I know that this situation cannot simply be fixed in Washington, I hope that we can help. Potential employers should not use criminal history to screen out applicants before they even look at their qualifications. Banning the box would enable almost 20 million people to have a second chance and the opportunity to make a positive contribution to our country."

“I thank Representatives Cummings and Issa for hosting today’s important briefing on banning the box, and all the other participants for taking part in this critical conversation. If we are going to reduce recidivism and ensure people have opportunities following imprisonment, then we must reduce barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals.  Everyone should have a fair chance at employment and be judged on their skills and abilities once their debt to society has been paid,” said Murphy.  “Our criminal justice system is broken and in desperate need of reform. By banning the box, we give individuals not only a second chance, but also a fair chance. That is why I was proud to participate in today’s bipartisan briefing to support the Fair Chance Act and to further efforts happening in cities and states nationwide, as well as in the private sector, to put in place fairer hiring policies.”

At today’s briefing, Congressman Cummings led a discussion, which explored a wide range of fair chance hiring policies being implemented across the country, along with Reps. Bobby Scott and Robert Dold; Zulema Rodriguez, deputy director of mass incarceration efforts for the Center for Community Change; Jayme Roth, director of government affairs for Starbucks Coffee Company; and Greg Carpenter, a ban the box advocate from Baltimore, MD, which Cummings represents.

Cummings and Issa led the House introduction of the bipartisan, bicameral Fair Chance Act in September, and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced the bill in the Senate. Last month, less than four weeks after introduction, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Johnson, marked up and passed the bill unanimously.

In May, Cummings and more than 70 Members of the House sent a letter to President Obama urging him to adopt “ban the box” hiring policies in the federal government.  

In a speech announcing his measures, President Obama said, “I believe Congress should pass legislation that builds on today’s announcement.”  The Fair Chance Act is Congress’ best opportunity to build on the President’s measures.  The bill would:

  •         ban the federal government—including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—from requesting criminal history information from applicants until they reach the conditional offer stage;
  •         prohibit federal contractors from requesting criminal history information from candidates for positions within the scope of federal contracts until the conditional offer stage;
  •         include important exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions requiring access to classified information, and positions for which access to criminal history information before the conditional offer stage is required by law; and
  •         require the Department of Labor, Census Bureau, and Bureau of Justice Statistics to issue a report on the employment statistics of formerly incarcerated individuals.

Due in part to significant grassroots efforts across the country, states and cities have been implementing Ban the Box polices to help people with criminal records overcome barriers to employment of having to “check the box” on job applications.  Nineteen states and more than 100 cities and counties have taken action, and companies such as Walmart, Koch Industries, Target, Home Depot, Starbucks, and Bed, Bath & Beyond have also embraced Ban the Box policies.

114th Congress