Ensuring People with Convictions Have a Fair Chance to Work

An estimated 70 million people in the United States—nearly one in three adults—have a prior arrest or conviction record. A racially biased criminal justice system and mass incarceration have severely impacted communities of color.

A conviction in one’s past shouldn’t be a life sentence to joblessness. NELP is working to expand fair-chance hiring laws to every corner of the nation, because everyone deserves an opportunity to work for a better life.

  • State covers public employers
  • State covers private employers
  • Other local policies, no state law or policy
  • No state or local policy

  • P: City/county covers public employers
  • Pr: City/county covers private employers
  • C: City/county covers private contractors

Over 150 Cities & Counties and 33 States Have “Ban the Box”

Now 33 states and over 150 cities and counties have taken steps to remove barriers to employment for qualified workers with records. Of those jurisdictions, 11 states, the District of Columbia, and 16 cities and counties extend their fair-chance hiring policies to private employment

NELP’s Ban the Box State and Local Guide documents the policies across the country.

The Business Case for Fair-Chance Employment

Billions lost to our economy because of the poor job prospects of people with records is a real business concern, but the human potential squandered and the negative impact on our communities are the real tragedies. Employers can take concrete actions to be part of the solution. Find out more in our blog.


Fair Chance – Ban the Box Toolkit

The Fair Chance – Ban the Box Toolkit was developed to be a one-stop, comprehensive resource for advocates interested in bringing fair chance hiring reform to their communities. As a national organization, we’ve benefited from hearing from leaders and experts about their campaigns. We’ve distilled these “lessons learned” into the Toolkit. For example, included are:

Contact Michelle Natividad Rodriguez at mrodriguez@nelp.org for assistance.

New Yorkers urged passage of the NYC Fair Chance Act at a December 2014 rally by VOCAL-NY and allies.

Fair Chance Licensing Reform

More than 70 million people with a record in the United States either face significant barriers when seeking a license to work, which is now required for one in four jobs, including many good-paying jobs that are in high demand in healthcare and other industries, or—even worse—they are automatically disqualified, sometimes for life.

A license to work is now required for one in four jobs.

The fact sheet: Fair Chance Licensing Reform Takes Hold in the States summarizes 2018 legislative updates in occupational licensing. New bills have been signed into law in Delaware, Indiana, and Massachusetts, and legislation is awaiting the signature of the Governors of Maryland and Tennessee. Additional bills worth noting have been introduced in the District of Columbia and at least three states (including California, Kansas, and Rhode Island).

The toolkit: Fair Chance Licensing Reform: Opening Pathways for People with Records to Join Licensed Professions (October 2017) is intended to provide lawmakers and advocates in states across the country with the resources necessary to set about the work of fair chance licensing reform.


The report Unlicensed & Untapped: Removing Barriers To State Occupational Licenses For People With Records (April 2016) provides the landscape of state occupational licensing barriers and recommendations for fairer state licensing laws.


Fair-Chance Reform in the Nation is Growing Rapidly

From 2013 to 2014, more than twice as many jurisdictions adopted policies to reduce hiring barriers for qualified job seekers with a past conviction.

Note: Some jurisdictions were counted twice, because additional policies were adopted for the same jurisdiction in multiple years.

Implementation of California's AB1008 Fair Chance Hiring Laws

The California Fair Chance Act (AB 1008) took effect on January 1, 2018. The law ensures that employers fairly consider job applicants with a record by delaying when an employer can ask about an applicant’s conviction history or run a background check.

This FactSheet outlines the law and Fair Chance hiring process, and explains jobseeker rights: The California Fair Chance Act: Know Your Rights as a Jobseeker Under the New ‘Ban the Box’ Law

This Blog summarizes best practices for Employers to achieve compliance with all four California laws, and to advance statewide best practices: Fair Chance Hiring in the Golden State: 10 “Best Practices” for Employers

Unlocking Opportunity

The “Unlocking Opportunity for People with Records and Their Families” conference was held in Washington, DC on October 23-24, 2017. Links to conference videos and resources are below.

Back to Top of Page