This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Reston Town Center that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement, and private sector employee matters.
On Nov. 2, 2015, President Barack Obama announced the first step to provide individuals with former criminal convictions with a meaningful opportunity to apply for federal employment. Applicants were previously required to check a “Yes” or “No” box to indicate whether they have ever had a felony criminal conviction.
Not surprisingly, this check box has made it very difficult for an individual with a prior criminal conviction that is even decades old to have a chance to compete for a federal employment position. One New York City study cited by the National Institute of Justice indicated that individuals with former criminal records had a 50 percent less chance than the average individual of receiving a job offer.
While additional action is needed by Congress to provide stronger protections, the President has directed the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to modify the rules for federal employment purposes that would effectively delay criminal history inquiries until later in the federal hiring process in order to provide a chance for an individual to be evaluated on his or her merits before having to respond to any questions about former convictions.
This action by President Obama is an important first step. There is a significant and mostly bipartisan “Ban the Box” movement across the country to enable individuals with former felony convictions to withhold disclosure of such convictions when applying for new federal positions. Members of both major political parties have supported these reforms. So far, over 100 cities and counties and 19 states have already enacted such reforms.
Therefore, it is perhaps an opportune and welcome time for President Obama and Congress to work together to help resolve this problem since individuals with criminal convictions who are starting to rebuild their lives still continue to remain the target of discrimination during the employment hiring process.
We represent employees in federal employment matters nationwide, as well as private and public sector employees in employment matters in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. If you need assistance with an employment law issue, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.