On POTUS Banning the Box in Fed. Hiring, Reforming Policies for Fair Employment

The following is a statement from Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

“President Obama, with the strong backing of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council chaired by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, has taken unprecedented steps to restore the rights of people with arrest and conviction records to access jobs, housing, education, health care and public benefits, in response to the devastating fallout from the failed ‘war on drugs’ and mass incarceration.  Today, building on this track record of leadership, the Administration announced regulations issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) directing federal agencies to ‘ban the box’ in the federal hiring process and a series of significant steps mandated by a Presidential Memorandum regulating other actions by federal agencies designed to reduce barriers to employment of people with records.  

“We applaud the President for embracing the role of the federal government as a model employer.  70 million people have criminal records in the U.S. and they should be able to contribute their diverse talents and skills to the federal workforce without unreasonable and discriminatory barriers.  The effort to break down these barriers and restore employment and other rights of people with records is one of the key civil rights issues of our time.

“Of special significance, the proposed OPM regulations ensure that criminal history information will not be collected until the very end of the hiring process, after the government has extended a ‘conditional offer’ of employment to the job candidate.  By codifying what is current OPM policy, the regulations ensure that the job applicant is fully and fairly evaluated based on his or her qualifications for the job, before consideration of a possible disqualifying offense. Today’s action by the Administration sends a powerful message to all those who struggle to find work with a conviction record that they are valued and respected members of the nation’s workforce.  

“In addition, the Presidential Memorandum issued today significantly advances the employment rights of people with records.  It institutionalizes the Interagency Reentry Council, thus creating a central body within the government solely devoted to removing the collateral consequences and the stigma of a criminal record.  Significantly, the President’s action also requires all agencies within the federal government that have the authority to grant, deny or regulate occupational licenses  to revise their procedures to protect against unfair discrimination against people with records. The action also directs the Reentry Council to identify ways to improve the accuracy of criminal record information generated for employment background checks.   

“While we applaud today’s significant announcements, we also note that the President is in position to leverage the federal government’s resources to extend fair chance hiring to the nation’s 170,000 federal contractors who employ one in four U.S. workers.  Earlier this week, over 125 organizations across the nation joined 50 leaders in the U.S House of Representatives in calling on the President finish the job by taking executive action extending fair chance hiring to federal contractors.  We urge the administration to build on its  strong record of accomplishments and take the critical next step at its disposal to help achieve full participation of people with records in the workforce.”

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