Koch Industries Decision to ‘Ban the Box’ Signals Broad, Growing Appeal for Fair-Hiring Practices

One of Nation’s Largest Employers Moves to Reduce Employment Barriers for Job-Seekers with Records, as Criminal Justice Reform Gains Momentum Across Partisan Divide

Washington, DC—Koch Industries, Inc.’s announcement Monday that it will remove conviction history questions from its job applications is the latest sign that momentum for criminal justice reform and fair-hiring practices is building on both sides of the political aisle and across the business community.

Commonly known as “banning the box” (referring to the conviction history check-box), this fair-hiring practice postpones such inquiries until later in the hiring process, so that applicants can be evaluated first on their qualifications and skills, and not just on past convictions.

Koch Industries, a major funder and advocate of criminal justice reform, joins Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, and other large national employers in adopting ban-the-box, demonstrating that such fair-chance hiring policies are gaining widespread acceptance in the business community.

“The fact that more and more of our nation’s major employers—including a company like Koch Industries that is synonymous with conservative politics—are choosing to embrace fair-chance hiring policies shows that this is an idea with broad appeal whose time has come,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “The private sector increasingly understands that treating all job applicants fairly, including people with records, is not just good for society, it’s good for business.”

Koch Industries, a $115 billion company and one of the nation’s largest employers, with more than 60,000 employees, is a major federal contractor. Nearly 200 organizations and leaders are urging the Obama administration to take executive action to ensure that all federal agencies and contractors remove unnecessary employment barriers for job-seekers with records. Representatives of the groups met with White House officials last month to press for federal fair-chance hiring reforms.

“If Koch Industries can do this, there’s no reason why other federal contractors and federal agencies cannot. It’s time for the administration to follow suit and issue a fair-chance/ban-the-box policy for federal agencies and contractors,” said Owens. “Employers are realizing that fair-chance hiring is a smart business decision. It makes no sense to arbitrarily limit the pool of candidates by screening out people with records en masse, because companies will miss out on highly qualified and talented candidates who may turn out to be some of their most dedicated and loyal employees.”

The growing number of states and localities that have adopted ban-the-box and other fair-chance hiring reforms may ultimately pave the way for federal action. So far, 16 states and more than 100 cities and counties have adopted fair-chance hiring policies. Six of those states and the District of Columbia, plus 25 cities and counties, have applied their policies not only to government jobs but also to government contractors or private employers. Most recently, governors in Vermont, Virginia, and Georgia have signed executive orders banning the box on public-sector job applications.

Nearly one in three adults in the United States has an arrest or conviction record that will show up on a routine background check. African Americans are incarcerated at a rate six times that of whites, putting them at a severe disadvantage in the job market long after they’ve served their time.

“Ensuring work opportunity for the record numbers of Americans who are unfairly shut out of employment due to an arrest or conviction record is one of the major civil rights and economic challenges of our time,” said Owens.

For Immediate Release: April 27, 2015
Contact: Emma Stieglitz, emmaS@berlinrosen.com, 646-200-5307

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