OPM Proposes Federal Ban the Box Rule

By Michael Klazema on 5/6/2016

Federal legislators are in the midst of proposing a ban the box law that would apply to all employers nationwide—both public and private. However, while that particular piece of legislation—reported last month in the Chicago Tribune—pends, another sweeping ban the box rule could be on the way. According to Federal News Radio, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has proposed a rule that would remove questions about criminal history from virtually all Federal Government job applications.

The Office of Personnel Management has not had the best year. Last June, the government department was the target of a major data breach that exposed the sensitive personal data of millions. Then, in January, the Obama Administration announced the creation of the National Background Investigations Bureau—a department designed to run background checks for federal security clearances. Such checks had previously been handled by OPM contractors, and while the National Background Investigations Bureau will operate under OPM, the change is still arguably a slap in the face for the department.

Still, despite these blows, the Office of Personnel Management is still a major cog in the Federal Government's civil services process—a major enough cog to be influential. If OPM can push a rule through for a federal ban the box policy, that achievement could help to clean up the department's image—both with the current presidential administration and with Fair Chance Employment proponents nationwide. Obama instructed the OPM to work on a policy of this ilk last fall.

OPM officially proposed the ban the box rule on April 29th, with acting director Beth Colbert noting that early inquiries "into an applicant's criminal history may discourage motivated, well-qualified individuals who have served their time from applying for a federal job." Such a stance isn't much different than what we've heard from other proponents of ban the box policies—both on the legislative level and in the private sector.

The Office of Personnel Management's rule, if approved, would bar federal employers from asking about criminal history on job applications. It would also delay background checks until after the employer has issued a conditional offer of employment. Such policies aren't new in terms of ideals and have already been implemented in many areas throughout the country. However, a federal decision on this matter would be new and would be a clear step toward a future where the box is banned universally. If the current nationwide legislation on that matter passes, it would bring about such a future, but for now, a ban the box rule for all federal employers would be arguably the biggest step yet for the Fair Chance Employment movement.




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