June 05, 2015
A group of 27 senators and more than 70 representatives have urged President Obama to issue an executive order that would require federal contractors to "ban the box," i.e., stop requiring job applicants to reveal prior convictions or arrests early in the job-application process. According to the letter, "too often, the over 70 million Americans who have criminal histories face unreasonable barriers that prevent them from securing gainful employment." The House and Senate letters specifically asked the President to require that federal contractors refrain from asking job applicants about prior convictions until later in the hiring process, but to allow employers to "retain the ability to inquire about past convictions or conduct background checks regarding a potential employee before making an employment decision." According to White House spokesman Frank Benenati, the administration is "reviewing those ideas carefully." Currently, 17 states have banned the box. Ironically, the request comes at a time when Federal contractors are to be asked to report on their own violations on various federal and state employment laws under the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (a.k.a. Blacklisting) Executive Order.