On the President’s Announcement on ‘Ban the Box’ Hiring

Statement of Christine Owens, executive director, National Employment Law Project, regarding President Obama’s announcement today in Newark that he will direct the federal Office of Personnel Management to delay inquiries into job applicant’s criminal history until later in the hiring process: 

“We are proud to stand with All of Us or None, PICO, and the more than 200 organizations that have raised their voices calling on President Obama to lead the way in promoting the hiring of people with records, building on the momentum from across the nation embracing ‘ban the box’ and other ‘fair chance’ hiring reforms.  Today’s announcement by President Obama, focusing on the process of hiring federal government employees, represents a positive first step, but we all have to be diligent in our efforts to ensure that the President uses the full weight of his office to also issue an Executive Order regulating federal contractors, and that it’s modeled on the strongest policies embraced by states and cities across the nation.

“We look forward to working with the administration to learn more precise details of exactly what the new OPM rules for hiring will be and to further leverage federal resources to improve job opportunities for the 70 million Americans who have a record and are ready for a fresh start and a fair chance.

“One of the most important next steps should be to extend the reach of any federal ‘ban the box’ policy so that it covers federal contractors, not just government agencies, as outlined in a January NELP report and in a July 2015 letter sent to the President. That would greatly extend the impact of the federal policy, given that nearly one in four U.S. workers is employed either by a federal contractor, a subcontractor, or the federal government.

“Moreover, a strong federal policy should expressly incorporate the government’s own guidelines.  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines require employers to take into account the age of the offense, the nature of the offense, and whether the offense is directly related to the job; and to conduct an ‘individual assessment’ providing the candidate an opportunity to present evidence of rehabilitation and verify the accuracy of the record. We hope that the new OPM policy will make it explicit that federal agencies should abide by these guidelines.

“Nearly 200 organizations from around the country have called on the administration to adopt meaningful ‘fair chance’ hiring reforms. They’ve marched and rallied at the White House and delivered well over 100,000 petition signatures calling for real change. Nineteen states (see map) and more than 100 cities and counties have already taken similar action, as have some of the nation’s largest employers. We welcome the administration’s announcement today, and look forward to further efforts from the administration to ensure that all Americans, including those with records, have a fair chance at employment.”



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