How Exactly Will Agencies Erase Bias Against Unemployed Job Applicants?

The president signed an executive order in January to reform federal hiring practices. The president signed an executive order in January to reform federal hiring practices. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Federal agencies must soon disclose specifically how they will comply with a White House order to eliminate bias against unemployed job applicants, according to guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

The federal government’s human resources agency told chief human capital officers across government they must submit reports by the end of April on what processes -- intentionally or inadvertently -- put unemployed applicants for a federal job at an “undue disadvantage.”  

OPM acknowledged a fine line exists between acceptable practices, such as disqualifying a candidate for lack of relevant experience, and unacceptable practices, including disqualifying a candidate solely for being unemployed or for maintaining “outstanding financial obligations.” Agency Director Katherine Archuleta offered OPM’s assistance in making these determinations.

Obama signed an executive order in January to reform federal hiring practices, writing, “It is the policy of my administration that applicants should not face undue obstacles to federal employment because they are unemployed or face financial difficulties.”

As part of the order, Obama instructed agencies to review their hiring practices to identify any procedures that put the unemployed and those in financial straits at a disadvantage.

“It’s only right that the federal government lead by example,” he said after signing the order.

Archuleta identified in her memo hiring practices that promote “fair opportunities,” including open position advertisements that do not discourage unemployed individuals from applying and recruitment practices that “cast a broad net” and encourage any qualified individual to apply.

OPM will offer more details and tips for hiring practices once it receives initial input from each agency. 

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