OPM Abandons Proposal that Federal Job Applicants Disclose Pre-Trial Diversion Participation

Although federal officials say the plan was well intentioned, advocates decried the initiative as counter to ongoing criminal justice reform efforts.

The Office of Personnel Management confirmed Thursday that it is “re-evaluating” a proposed regulation that would have required jobseekers to disclose participation in pre-trial diversion programs in addition to any past criminal convictions during the application process for a position in the federal government.

Last month, criminal justice advocates and lawmakers in both parties sharply criticized the Trump administration for a proposed regulation first published in February that would require applicants to federal jobs to disclose participation in pre-trial diversion programs in addition to criminal convictions as part of the hiring process. At the time, officials said they would consider those critiques as they move forward, but noted that the effort was to clarify existing regulations, and make it easier for ex-offenders and pre-trial diversion participants to pass a background check.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the White House instructed OPM to abandon the proposed rule, as a result of the outcry. An OPM spokesperson on Thursday reiterated to Government Executive that the proposal was intended to provide clarity to applicants, and that the agency would consult with stakeholders before announcing future changes to the hiring process.

“OPM intended the proposed changes to [the Declaration for Federal Employment Form] to provide clarification for applicants, and after receiving input from multiple stakeholders we are re-evaluating the proposed changes,” the spokesperson said. “OPM fully supports the second-chance hiring efforts of the administration and looks forward to working with all stakeholders on any potential changes in the future.”

Currently, the federal government asks jobseekers to disclose past criminal convictions only at the conditional offer stage of the hiring process, the result of an Obama administration effort to “ban the box” in federal hiring. The administration has stressed that the existing criminal conviction question is not intended to weed out potential applicants, and that decisions on hiring ex-offenders are made on a case-by-case basis.

A bill under consideration in Congress, the Fair Chance Act (H.R. 1076), would codify that policy in federal law.