The Truth Behind President Obama’s Executive Order Against Criminal Background Checks

We told you this was coming. Not too long ago, we ran two posts about the Ban The Box movement gaining momentum at the Federal level. Click on the headlines if you want a refresher:

Is Ban the Box Gaining Federal Traction?

Update: Are Credit Checks Discriminatory? Some U.S. Senators Say, “Yes.”

Turns out, we were right, but we had no idea how quickly President Obama would lend his voice to the cause. He is purportedly mulling an executive order that would make it illegal for federal agencies to ask about a candidate’s criminal history on a job application. This process, called Ban The Box, has already become law in 19 states. Seven states have even expanded the law to include private sector businesses.

Under the President’s order, only employees and not contractors, would be covered under Ban The Box.

Helping People Get Jobs

The idea behind Ban The Box is to make it easier for the tens of millions of Americans with criminal records to land jobs. It’s been widely reported that having a criminal record can be a major barrier toward re-entering the workforce, and may disproportionately affect minorities because they, in general, have a higher criminal conviction rate.

Take a look at these stats:

  • Nearly one in three Americans have criminal records that show up on background checks.
  • People of color make up about 30 percent of the general population, but 60 percent of those in prison.
  • About 60 to 75 percent of former inmates are unable to find jobs within a year of being released, according to a Justice Department study.

Ban The Box advocates argue structural discrimination exists when employers don’t allow applicants to reach the next step in the employment process (whatever that may be) because they checked ‘yes’ to a question about previous criminal convictions. Since the question is included on nearly every job application (except those states with Ban The Box laws) some people argue that structural discrimination is pervasive. They also say that it disproportionately affects some minorities because African Americans and Latinos/Hispanics are convicted of crimes at higher rates than other races.

Bans Common Sense?

Not everyone is on board with Obama’s alleged decision to support Ban The Box for federal employees. The headline for this article geared toward investors says it all:

“Now Background Checks Are Racist? Obama Steps Up Hug-A-Thug Crusade.”

Background checks, and yes, asking applicants about their criminal histories and credit problems, have long been part of the hiring process. Some might add they are vital to ensuring American businesses have a solid, trustworthy roster of employees. More than that, though, background checks protect employers and employees from a variety of ills, including theft, fraud, and workplace violence.

If you think workplace violence isn’t that prevalent, you should really read our post: “What Is Workplace Violence and What Does it Have to do With Background Checks?”

Where Do You Stand?

So, we want to know: Where do you stand on Ban The Box? Is it the right solution to assist more ex-offenders to get jobs? Or does it put employers into a risky legal liability situation?

And, how do you feel about the President issuing an executive order banning questions about criminal histories on job applications for certain federal positions?

Leave a comment below or Tweet us here!

This entry was posted in Background Screening, Criminal Records, General, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , by Patricia Carlson. Bookmark the permalink.

Patricia Carlson is a content writer who specializes in B2C and B2B inbound marketing. She blogs regularly for clients about the background screening and finance industries, and generates newsletters, white papers and email campaigns for a variety of businesses. Patricia also produces a heavy rotation of editorial material for home design, law enforcement, and family magazines. She’s been writing professionally for more than a dozen years, and for Active Screening for more than two of those. Check out LinkedIn for a roster of Patricia’s clients and links to published works. When she’s not interviewing sources or researching trends, she’s living a fast-paced Florida life questioning the antics of her two young children, partner and mischievous cat. Patricia loves to talk tennis and TV on Twitter – give her a shout @pattycfreelance.

 
        
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