Several senators have joined a nationwide movement to remove questions about criminal records from job applications.
A group of 27 Democratic senators joined a growing nationwide movement to “ban the box” on Tuesday,sending a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to take executive action to prohibit federal contractors and federal agencies from asking job candidates about their criminal records on job applications.
The senators said that the move would expand job opportunities for individuals with criminal records and reduce recidivism.
“[W]e ask you to require federal contractors and agencies to refrain from asking job applicants about prior convictions until later in the hiring process. This policy would eliminate unnecessary barriers to employment for all job seekers and would give individuals re-entering the workforce the opportunity to apply for work based on their current merits rather than past wrong-doings,” the letter says. “Employers would retain the ability to inquire about past convictions or conduct background checks regarding a potential employee before making an employment decision.”
The senators said that banning the box for federal agencies and contractors is in line with the administration’s previously stated goals. In 2011, then Attorney General Eric Holder called for making the federal government a model employer. And the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative—an effort to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color—endorses such “fair chance” reforms.
One hundred cities and counties have adopted fair chance policies, as have 16 states, with the governors of Vermont and Virginia signing executive orders to implement such rules this year. Six of those states have hiring laws that apply to private companies, in addition to public employers. Private employers have also acted independent of government regulations to remove criminal background checks from their job application processes. In late April,Koch Industries announced that it was doing so, following similar moves by Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot.
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