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White House Takes Another Step to Ease Federal Hiring of Former Felons

Obama orders OPM to change rules so that agencies ask about criminal history later in the job application process.

As part of a broader initiative to reduce recidivism among previously incarcerated individuals, the White House on Monday announced additional steps to make it easier for former felons to get federal jobs.

The Obama administration is “encouraged” by bipartisan legislation that would prevent federal agencies and contractors from asking about job candidates’ criminal history until late in the application process, the White House said in a statement. The bill would ban all three branches of government and federal contractors from requesting criminal history information until the conditional offer stage. Positions related to law enforcement and national security, jobs that require access to classified information and posts statutorily required to employ individuals with clean records would be exempt from the ban.

Many states and cities have already adopted “ban the box” measures to prevent employers from asking up front about a prospective worker’s criminal background.  

The Fair Chance Act (H.R. 3470 and S. 2021) cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in early October, but has not moved out of committee in the House.

While the bill works its way through Congress, President Obama directed the Office of Personnel Management to “take action where it can by modifying its rules to delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process,” the White House stated. “While most agencies already have taken this step, 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.” 

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