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year, more than 600,000 people are released from Federal and State prisons, and
millions more are released from local jails. One in three working-age Americans
has an arrest record. Many face long-term, sometimes lifelong, impacts of a
criminal record that prevent them from getting a job or accessing housing,
higher education, loans, credit, and more.
Such barriers hurt public safety, add costs to the taxpayer, and damage
the fabric of our communities. Removing these barriers and promoting the
rehabilitation and reintegration of people who have paid their debt to society
is a critical piece of the Administration’s efforts to make the nation’s
criminal justice system more fair and effective.
week is National Reentry Week—a chance to call attention to the urgency of
criminal justice reform and to highlight the ongoing work across the Federal
government to remove barriers to reentry for people returning to their
communities. Here at the Office of Personnel Management, we are doing our part.
issued a proposed rule that would ensure that applicants with a criminal
history have a fair shot to compete for Federal jobs. The rule would
effectively “ban the box” for a significant number of positions in the Federal Government by delaying the point in the hiring process when agencies can
inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer is
made. This change prevents candidates from being eliminated before they have a
chance to demonstrate their qualifications.
inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history may discourage motivated,
well-qualified individuals who have served their time from applying for a Federal job. Early inquiries could also lead to the premature disqualification
of otherwise eligible candidates, regardless of whether an arrest actually
resulted in a conviction, or whether consideration of an applicant’s criminal
history is justified by business necessity. These barriers to employment
unnecessarily narrow the pool of eligible and qualified candidates for federal
employment, and also limit the opportunity for those with criminal histories to
support themselves and their families.
Administration is committed to pursuing public policies that promote fairness
and equality. As the nation’s largest employer, the Federal Government should
lead the way and serve as a model for all employers – both public and private.
rule builds on the current practice of many agencies, which already choose to
collect information on criminal history at late stages of the hiring process.
The rule would take the important step to codify, formalize, and expand this
are certain times when an agency might be justified in disqualifying an applicant
with criminal history, or collecting information on their background, earlier
in the process. Therefore, OPM will set up a mechanism for agencies to request
exceptions. These will be granted on a case-by-case basis. These
exceptions could be granted either by individual position, or by class of
positions, depending on the specifics of the case. For example, cases could include certain law enforcement
jobs that require the ability to testify in court, or jobs where applicants
undergo extensive and costly training before they are offered a job.
the box for Federal hiring is an important step. It sends a clear signal to
applicants, agencies, and employers across the country that the Federal Government is committed to making it easier for those who have paid their debts
to society to successfully return to their communities, while staying true to
the merit system principles that govern our civil service by promoting fair
competition between applicants from all segments of society.
I was honored to speak at the White House Summit on Working Families. The conference, co-hosted by the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress, brought together business and labor leaders, economists, policy makers, advocates and everyday citizens to discuss policy solutions that can make a real difference in the lives of working families and ensure America’s global competitiveness in the coming decades.
At the conference, President Obama unveiled his memorandum designed to enhance workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. The President also directed OPM to work with agencies to promote the use of such programs, ranging from telework to alternative work schedules to leave programs. OPM will be responsible for assessing agency programs, educating employees and their managers, and promoting a culture that encourages and supports these flexibilities.
I participated in a panel called the Structure of the Workplace. It focused on the importance of having workplace flexibilities and what they mean to employees. Here’s just one example: When employees know that their boss will bend over backwards to accommodate them when a family emergency comes up, then they will be willing to go the extra mile when a critical situation arises at work. The result? Happier and more productive employees. That’s the culture we need.
With the President’s encouragement and through our partnership with the agencies, we will work to remove barriers that exist in fostering that culture. And every Federal employee will be an integral part of making it happen.
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