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OPM expands ‘ban the box’ options for formerly incarcerated workers

Agencies can expect to update recruitment processes to open doors for formerly incarcerated people. Candidates with criminal records will have more opportunities to join the federal workforce and more advice on how to land government jobs.

The Office of Personnel Management wants to add more positions under the umbrella for which agencies must delay criminal history questions. For most federal jobs, agencies must give the candidate a conditional job offer before asking about previous incarcerations, according to the April 26 OPM proposal.

Exceptions to the rule exist for those with security clearances, those with national security duties, and those applying for jobs in law enforcement or the armed forces.

The proposed guidance follows the passage of the Equal Opportunity Act, also known as the Ban Box Bill, which came into force on December 20, 2021, as part of the Act. on the 2020 National Defense Clearance. In an effort to prevent agencies from disqualifying formerly incarcerated people from federal jobs, the legislation has delayed when agencies can ask about an applicant’s criminal history until that he made a conditional job offer.

The OPM now wants to expand the positions covered by the government’s ‘ban box’ policy to include all executive appointments. This covers competitive service, excepted service and senior management service.

The agency previously revised rules regarding the timing of disclosure of criminal records in 2016, which initially delayed criminal background investigations later in the hiring process.

“We know that qualified individuals, despite their criminal records, not only deserve a second chance, but also have a lot to offer the federal government,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said in an April 25 memo.

Many lawmakers support the OPM’s proposed guidelines, including Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and co-sponsor of the Fair Chance Act.

The Fair Chance Act “helps increase federal hiring of formerly incarcerated people who have paid their debt to society,” Portman spokeswoman Kylie Nolan told Federal News Network. “The OPM guidelines offer more transparency regarding federal hiring practices and helpful advice for people seeking federal employment.”

The White House welcomed the OPM’s proposed guidance in an April 26 announcement highlighting government-wide actions as part of Second Chance Month.

“Once enacted, these regulations will expand the positions covered by the federal government’s no-box policy, which delays criminal background investigations of a candidate if a conditional offer has been made,” the White House said. . β€œThe settlement also creates new procedures that outline the due process and accountability steps for hiring officials who allegedly violated box blackout procedures.”

Along with the OPM’s proposed directions, the White House highlighted more than 20 actions across a dozen agencies, including investing in job training in federal prisons and automating cross-agency information to quickly restore benefits to previously incarcerated veterans.

Additionally, the Department of Labor announced requests for $140 million in grants to advance employment opportunities for those previously incarcerated.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also launched a new webpage compiling resources on using arrest and conviction records in employment decisions.

β€œThe steps we take today will have a real impact for someone trying to land a job, find a safe and affordable place to live with their children, and get back on their feet,” the Council Director said. of domestic policy, Susan Rice, at an April conference. 26 White House Roundtable.

To provide additional support to those previously incarcerated, the OPM is offering information sessions this week to help agencies expand their candidate pools. On April 28, the OPM will host a training webinar to help federal groups recruit and hire candidates who were previously incarcerated. The agency will host interactive sessions between federal human resources workers and applicants with criminal records.

In a new guide, the OPM has also written details to help applicants through the federal job application process.

“It offers helpful information on navigating USAJOBS, writing a resume for the greatest impact when applying for federal employment, and preparing for and participating in interviews,” Ahuja said.

The OPM recommended sharing volunteer, community or independent work experience if a candidate has gaps in employment. The agency further said that during the application process, applicants can reference experiences from their incarceration if they wish.

But, investigators are not allowed to directly ask about a candidate’s criminal history.

Under the proposal, job applicants can report any violation of the rule to the OPM, which will penalize federal employees with a written warning, fine or suspension, depending on the number of violations.

Partnering with community organizations will help OPM implement the policy, Ahuja said. The advice offered by the OPM also gives candidates information about hiring authorities that can help those who have already been incarcerated.

OPM is asking for feedback on its proposal by June 27.

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