I got the email below today from ColorOfChange.
I signed the petition. Will you too? -DG
President Obama has yet to take meaningful executive action against the illegal employment discrimination that formerly incarcerated individuals face after they have served their time. Federal agencies and the companies they contract with still require job applicants with a criminal record to check a box indicating that they have been convicted. This kind of question on a job application leads to illegal job discrimination by eliminating qualified individuals from jobs that have nothing to do with the crimes they committed in the past. Even the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission has called this employment discrimination. (see 1 below)
Now, thanks to the courage of Black organizers across the country, our national leaders are paying more attention to criminal justice issues than they have in years. People from both sides of the aisle are working towards criminal justice reform, and the President has made it clear that he wants to spend his last years in office working to undo the damage of mass incarceration. Now is the time to escalate on President Obama. (petition link)
Tell President Obama to end the federal government's employment discrimination against formerly incarcerated people.
Hiring questions about criminal records harm Black communities the most because of the disproportionately higher rates of arrests and convictions that Black people face. (see 2 below) Even before they have a chance to apply for jobs, people returning to their communities from jail or prison face a range of legalized discrimination that keeps them cut off from mainstream society and the economy. They are denied access to housing assistance, student aid, SNAP benefits and voting. And after experiencing structural racism at every turn within and outside of the criminal justice system, individuals with arrest and conviction records are still stripped of an opportunity to work. Coupled with the employment discrimination that Black job seekers face even without a criminal record, these hiring policies create an insurmountable obstacle for returning citizens.
Laws to “ban the box” asking about criminal history on employment applications are sweeping the country. Currently, 18 states have passed laws or enacted policy to provide a fair chance at employment for formerly incarcerated job seekers. (see 3 below) And these policies don’t just apply to state and local government as employers; nearly half of those states include policies that bar private businesses from asking about a job applicant’s prior arrest or conviction history. Big-box retailers Wal-Mart and Target have adopted an official Ban the Box policy, too. (see 4 below)
Even as President Obama talks about reforming the criminal justice system, and giving ex-offenders a second chance, the White House literally stigmatizes these individuals. Visitors to the White House with a conviction are sometimes turned away at the door or given a personal escort. These actions are not consistent with the message that the president is sending on criminal justice reform--that everyone deserves a second chance.
There is a crescendo of calls to ban the box everywhere. Despite the progress at the state level and with private corporations, the current presidential administration has not used its authority to ensure a fair chance at employment for every job seeker. A federal-level Ban the Box policy would create a groundswell of support for enacting this policy everywhere. President Obama can and should take the lead on this by announcing an executive action to Ban the Box on all applications for employment with federal government agencies and the companies it contracts with.
Tell the President: Make sure federal agencies Ban the Box.
Will you stand with us to demand action?
Thanks and Peace,
-Rashad, Arisha, Brandi, Brittaney and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.
1. “Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, 4-25-2012
2. "U.S. Push on Illegal Bias Against Hiring Those With Criminal Records," New York Times, 6-20-12
3. “Ban The Box: U.S. Cities, Counties, And States Adopt Fair Hiring Policies,” National Employment Law Project, 7-1-2015
4. “'Ban the Box’ Movement Spreads Nationwide,” Prison Legal News, 10-10-2014.
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