President Obama Signs Memorandum to 'ban the box' for Federal Agencies

With over 70 million Americans who have some type of a criminal record, the reintegration process- securing a new job or housing can be incredibly difficult.  On May 2, 2016, President Obama signed a memorandum which will be “promoting rehabilitation and reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals.”  What this means is that there would be a rule to prohibit federal agencies from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until the final phase of a job application process.  This is more commonly known as “ban the box.” 

While it is technically illegal to refuse to hire a qualified candidate due to a conviction, many employers have screened out employees with convictions, which is why there has been a nationwide movement to “ban the box.”  Currently, 23 states have adopted a policy for at least jobs in the public sector, as well as national companies: Starbucks, Home Depot, Target, and many others.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz even wrote a letter to U.S. Senator Cory Booker, which urged Congress to continue their efforts to “ban the box” to provide the 70 million Americans with a criminal record a second chance.

Now that President Obama has signed the proposed rule, it now enters a 60 day comments period (Until July 1,2016), which can be revised, withdrawn, or enacted.  By law, Presidential memoranda do not require Congressional approval.  Ban the box for federal agencies would be the initial step, but look for federal contractors to be next to ban the box.  Currently, 1 in 4 U.S. workers are employed by either the federal government, a federal contractor, or a subcontractor. 

myHRcounsel will continue to inform our clients on the ban the box movement.  Please contact us for compliance support or additional legal advice.