Federal Government Eliminates Criminal Background Checks and Mandatory Disclosures Early On

This week, President Obama introduced a plan which prohibits the federal government from considering the criminal history of job applicants during the early stages of the hiring process.  This plan is a part of the “ban the box” movement to eliminate the box on job applications which must be checked if an individual has ever been convicted of a crime.  As a part of this new plan, federal employers can no longer ask about an individual’s criminal history or run a criminal background check until the later stages of the hiring process. 


This new plan affects roughly 70 million Americans (a third of our population) who have at some point in their adult life been convicted of a crime, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Ideally, by implementing this plan, employers will judge an individual’s ability to perform the job based on their work history and qualifications instead of their criminal record.  This new policy increases the likelihood that an individual with a criminal record will be hired because studies show that many job applications are weeded out based solely on the box at issue.  The ultimate goal is to allow qualified applicants to interview with prospective employers and have a chance to discuss their past with them before the employer finds out about it elsewhere.  While this policy certainly does not guarantee that those with a criminal record will be hired, this policy certainly improves their chances. 


A total of 19 states, and nearly 100 local city and county governments, already have similar policies.[1]  Seven of those states have taken it a step further and prohibited private employers, not only government agencies, from asking about criminal history on job applications.[2]


For more information and to see a clip of the President’s speech announcing this policy, click here.


[1] California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia. 

[2] Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.