On October 2, President Obama announced a new executive order that prevents federal agencies from making job-applicants reveal they have a criminal record as part of his overall criminal justice reform effort.  This “ban the box” initiative would prevent federal agencies from asking about an applicant’s criminal history at the initial application stage.   

“It is relevant to find out if somebody has a criminal record,” Obama said at an event in Newark, New Jersey.  “I’m not suggesting ignore it.  I’m suggesting that when it comes to applications, give folks a chance to get through the door.”  The President further stated that 19 states and major U.S. companies have already removed the question from applications, and he urged Congress to pass legislation to expand the effort.  More than 100 cities and counties have also adopted similar rules, but only Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, the District of Columbia, and cities such as San Francisco and Chicago, have passed laws that govern how non-public employers address the issue of an applicant’s criminal background.   

Troutman Sanders has extensive experience in counseling companies on background screening compliance, including in “ban the box” jurisdictions.