- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Obama administration finalized a regulation Wednesday to prevent the federal government from asking job applicants about criminal records until a job has been offered, part of a series of actions that the White House said is aimed at reforming the criminal justice system.

The Office of Personnel Management is finalizing a rule known as “ban the box” to ensure that applicants with a criminal history “have a fair shot to compete for federal jobs, the White House said. The rule delays the point in the hiring process when agencies can inquire about an applicant’s criminal history, which the administration said will “prevent candidates from being eliminated before they have a chance to demonstrate their qualifications.”

“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,” the White House said. “Banning the box for federal hiring is an important step.”

Because nearly 70 million adults have a criminal record, the administration said, the government is also enlisting more companies to commit to a “fair chance” pledge to consider hiring more applicants with criminal records. The number of firms has risen to more than 300, including Gap, LinkedIn and Monsanto.

“We applaud the growing number of public and private sector organizations nationwide who are taking action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system,” the White House said.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the “ban the box” rule will “help level the playing field and break the harmful cycles of crime, poverty, and scarce opportunities in our communities.”

“Fair chance hiring policies are supported by a broad bipartisan coalition of Republicans and Democrats because they are a common-sense way to help formerly incarcerated people re-enter the workforce and contribute to our society,” he said.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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