WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released the following statement on President Obama’s announcement this week that he will “Ban the Box” for federal applications:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) applauds President Obama’s executive action to federal agencies to give a second chance to people with a criminal record by “banning the box” on federal employment applications. The scarlet letter of a criminal conviction falls disproportionately on racial and ethnic minorities, low-income individuals, and under-educated populations. As members of historically disadvantaged communities, these individuals face an uphill battle to attain employment and the “box” on employment applications serves as an effective impediment to their future success. Furthermore, the cumulative effect of denying employment opportunities, to otherwise qualified individuals, does not promote rehabilitation but rather undermines the public safety of our communities. The Lawyers’ Committee sees the president’s action as a step in the right direction.
“This is a positive step, but more must be done,” said Ray McClain, director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Employment Discrimination Project. “We look forward to working with the administration to provide more support to people applying to federal contractor jobs as well. By issuing a broader executive order, all federal contractors and government agencies would be required to apply the EEOC guidance on arrests in hiring, promotions, and other employment decisions. These additional changes are needed to make a real difference for workers with a criminal record. The majority of federal agencies covered have been following ‘ban the box’ hiring procedures for years for many or all of the jobs included in the recent executive action. Although the order this week is a welcomed step, it may have a limited practical impact.”
“People of color are disproportionately incarcerated at a higher rate and for longer sentences than their white counterparts, placing them at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to finding employment after being released,” said Kimberly Tignor, interim Lawyers’ Committee public policy director. “This critical executive action gives candidates seeking federal employment the opportunity to showcase their skills free of judgment based solely on their criminal record.”
While the president’s actions serve as a strong example of how policy can increase access to employment opportunities in the federal government, only 19 states across the country have passed “ban the box” policies leaving millions of Americans with criminal records to face discriminatory obstacles when seeking employment. The Lawyers’ Committee looks forward to working with the president and the White House to further expand employment opportunities for those with criminal convictions in the future.
“The Lawyers’ Committee has represented and consulted with many minority workers who have been denied jobs because of arrests or convictions that are decades old,” said McClain. “These workers can compete much more effectively when their resumes are considered on the record of their job experience, without the stigma that comes with a criminal conviction, even a very old one. In 2013, the Lawyers’ Committee released a report that included ‘ban the box’ as part of the Best Practice Standards: The Proper Use of Criminal Records in Hiring. ‘Banning the box’ in hiring is a win for workers with a record, and it’s a win for the employers who use it, since it helps employers hire candidates with the best skills and experience.”