OPM Proposes Tougher ‘Ban The Box’ Enforcement To Expand Federal Hiring

What is “Ban Box”?

In 2016, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a proposal to “ban the box” – an approach to broaden the pool of candidates for federal employment and “pursue public policies that promote equity and equality” and serving “as a role model for all employers – public and private.

“Ban the box” means “delaying the time in the hiring process when agencies can inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer (of federal employment) is made.” This change prevents candidates from being eliminated before they have had a chance to demonstrate their qualifications.

In other words, a new OPM rule has been released to encourage ex-convicts to apply for federal jobs and also make it easier for them to get federal jobs.

Rationale for the “Ban the box” rule

opm wrote:

Each year, more than 600,000 people are released from federal and state prisons, and millions more are released from local jails…Many face long-term, sometimes lifelong impacts of a criminal record that prevent them from getting a job or accessing housing, higher education, loans, credit, etc. Such barriers undermine public safety, increase taxpayer costs and damage the fabric of our communities. Eliminating these obstacles and promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of people who have paid their debt to society is a vital part of the administration’s efforts to make the country’s criminal justice system fairer and more efficient. .

(investigating criminal history) can discourage motivated and qualified individuals who have served their time from applying for federal employment. Early investigations could also result in the premature disqualification of otherwise eligible candidates, whether the arrest actually resulted in a conviction or whether consideration of a candidate’s criminal history is warranted by business necessity.

The final rule was published on December 1, 2016.

Proposed new rule to enforce “Ban Box”

The OPM is now releasing a new proposed rule expanding the concept of “box ban”.

The new rule addresses when an agency can verify an applicant’s criminal background information. The rule also establishes complaint procedures for applicants for federal employment to file a complaint. Finally, the proposed rule outlines procedures for adverse action when an agency employee is alleged to have violated these requirements.

The proposed rule directs affected agencies to establish a complaint process within 90 days of the effective date of the rule. It also requires the agency to complete the investigation within 60 calendar days of filing a complaint.

Adverse Action for Federal Employees Checking Candidates’ Criminal Backgrounds

Finally, the settlement outlines adverse action procedures that will apply to federal employees when an agency employee is alleged to have violated the requirements and appeal procedures for affected applicants under the law. Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act 2019 (Fair Chance Act).

Creating a World-Class Federal Workforce

The “OPM Director’s Blog” quoted President Obama and explained how the OPM was realizing this vision when the “ban the box” rule was proposed in 2016.

In a 2014 speech, President Obama said, “To meet the challenges of the 21st century, we need a federal workforce with the skills, experience, and tools to fulfill its mission. diverse now and in the future. At the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), we are working to realize this vision. Our mission is to help agencies recruit, retain, and honor a world-class federal workforce to serve the American people.

OPM described their inspiration for this approach when the topic was proposed in 2016.

Banning the box for federal hiring is an important step. This sends a clear signal to candidates, agencies and employers across the country that the federal government is committed to facilitating the return to their communities of those who have paid their debts to society, while remaining true to the principles of the system. of Merit that will govern our public service by promoting fair competition among candidates from all walks of life.

The Biden administration, using this proposed new extension of “banning the box,” apparently intends to extend OPM’s earlier approach as laid out by President Obama “to help agencies recruit, retain, and honor a world-class federal workforce…”.

Deadline for comments

The comment period on the proposed rule expires June 27, 2022. Comments may be sent to the OPM through the Federal Electronic Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. All submissions received through the portal must include the agency name and filing number or regulatory identification number (RIN) for that regulatory proposal.

Additional requirements and instructions are contained in the proposed rule.

“Ask not what your country can do for you”

As history and social mores evolve, the approach to attracting new federal employees has changed. Comparing the current approach to that used by an earlier approach by Democrats to creating a world-class federal workforce, there is a significant difference.

The Kennedy administration sought to encourage the most qualified candidates by giving “people the idea that working for the government was a higher calling”.

President John F. Kennedy was sworn in on January 21, 1961. The new 43-year-old president asked Americans to stiffen their upper lip and tighten their belts.

Despite the call for sacrifice, the speech was optimistic. In a phrase that struck a chord with many, he said in his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” His call for sacrifice rather than the pursuit of self-gratification has won him near-universal praise.

His message in the midst of the “cold war” stated his philosophy: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us good or ill, that we will pay any price, bear any burden, face any any hardship, support any friend, oppose any enemy, in order to ensure the survival and success of freedom.

Once in office, the popularity of the new president continued to rise. It hit 83% in 1961 and stayed in the 70s or 80% the following year.

The Kennedy administration was known for hiring the “best and brightest” to work in government. The oft-quoted line from his inaugural speech impressed many young Americans as a duty of citizenship in an optimistic tone.

His approach rallied an army of young people to seek service in the federal government. The optimism attracted many young Americans and drew them into the ranks of federal employees, and during his tenure the number of executive employees grew by more than 85,000.

This approach worked. In 1975, more than 20% of the federal workforce was under 30 – many of whom went to work for the Peace Corps – a result of its philosophy of encouraging young people to apply for federal service jobs. .

More than 60 years after Kennedy’s emphasis on public service, very few federal employees hired at that time still work for Uncle Sam, though inspiration and optimism have remained as many young people have continued to seek federal employment at least until the 1960s.

Will the Biden/Obama approach create a world-class federal workforce?

Kennedy’s rhetoric was inspiring and memorable. It was a positive approach and many young Americans were inspired and sought government service as a result. The federal government was seen as employing the “best and brightest” Americans in order to create a better and more efficient federal government.

The stricter approach of ignoring prior criminal convictions and applying a system of adverse action to federal employees who don’t follow the “ban the box” approach is more negative than equating public service with a higher calling. high or a patriotic duty. There is no doubt that allowing and encouraging ex-inmates to apply for federal employee jobs will expand the pool of potential federal workers.

Moreover, one should be skeptical that encouraging more ex-convicts to come and work for the federal government is the best approach to fulfilling President Obama’s mission “to help agencies recruit, retain and honor a world-class federal workforce to serve the American people.”

The rising rhetoric of the new American president in 1961 was inspiring, appealed to the patriotic impulses of many young Americans, and was effective. These qualities are lacking in the baton currently used to impose adverse actions on federal employees who could check a candidate for past criminal activity before an offer is extended.

On a personal note, I was far more motivated by President Kennedy’s patriotic call to federal service. I took the Federal Civil Service Entrance Examination (FSEE) twice to achieve a score that allowed me to become a federal civil servant. I felt good about the decision. I had just left the army after a stint of two years and becoming a civil servant was a satisfying experience.

The possibility of applying for a job as a former convict or the idea of ​​working with many people with criminal backgrounds would not be inspiring. Perhaps it will be effective in achieving the administration’s goal of receiving applications “from all segments of society.” It is also likely to contribute to a less favorable image of the federal workforce and, perhaps, have a negative impact on attracting candidates with the greatest potential for success in an organization.

© 2022 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without the express written consent of Ralph R. Smith.

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