Ga. Bans Criminal History Disclosure in Public-Sector Hiring

By Roy Maurer Mar 2, 2015
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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order Feb. 23, 2015, requiring state agencies to remove the criminal history question from initial employment applications, becoming the first state in the South to “ban the box.”

Georgia joins 13 other states and dozens of municipalities that have adopted ban-the-box policies. Six states’ policies apply to hiring in the private sector as well as the public sector.

The order prohibits employers from automatically disqualifying job applicants based on any previous criminal records, except for “sensitive governmental positions.” The positions that qualify as sensitive were not listed or described.

The order aims to provide job applicants the opportunity to discuss any past offenses, contest inaccuracies or relevance of criminal records, and explain rehabilitation efforts in person.

“Approximately 97 percent of those sentenced to prison will eventually return to society, and currently over 1,300 offenders re-enter into our communities every month without employment,” the order stated. “Ban the Box is a policy intended to improve public safety, enhance workforce development and provide increased state employment opportunities for applicants with criminal convictions on their records.”

The order applies only to executive branch agencies that report to the governor—about a 50,000-person workforce—and doesn’t include public schools, the University System of Georgia, or the judicial or legislative branches. It takes effect immediately and matches a similar policy adopted by the city of Atlanta in October 2014.

The governor’s council on criminal justice reform recommended a ban-the-box policy to the state legislature in 2014.

The council had found that requiring applicants to disclose their criminal backgrounds “may exclude a returning citizen from consideration, even if he or she is otherwise qualified for the position and the conviction has little or no bearing on the work to be performed.”

Nine out of 10 employers run criminal background screens on applicants as part of the hiring process, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management. And the number of Americans who have a criminal history on file—about 30 percent, or 92 million people, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics—has increased exponentially in recent years.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy

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