In a move to help ex-prisoners find gainful employment and stay out of prison, President Obama has signed an executive order to “ban the box” from federal job applications. This prohibits federal employers from asking applicants about their criminal history until later in the hiring process when a background check can be conducted. This executive order is limited to federal employers only – not private employers or federal contractors.
“This action will better ensure that applicants from all segments of society, including those with prior criminal histories, receive a fair opportunity to compete for Federal employment,” an official statement from White House explains.
While this move will not guarantee that a person with a record will get hired, it will at least offer people with records the chance to demonstrate that they are strong candidates, rather than being immediately dismissed. It’s a step in the right direction.
Screening out applicants with a criminal history discounts a significant portion of the population. The National Employment Law Project (NELP), estimates that 70 million people in the U.S. have an arrest or conviction record. “There’s a deep stigma attached to having a record,” says Michelle Rodriguez, senior staff attorney at NELP. When the criminal history question is delayed, it can be evaluated in relation to the candidate’s ability to do the job, rather than establish bias from the beginning, she says.
The federal ban the box order joins nineteen states, including California, New York and Hawaii, which have passed laws that ban the criminal history box for public, and in some states, private, employers. Click here to view CARCO’s latest listing of ban the box states and policies.
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