North Carolina Governor Signs “Ban the Box” Order for State Agency Jobs

Ban the Box

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On August 18, 2020, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 158 to implement fair chance and “Ban the Box” policies at state agencies to increase job opportunities for ex-offenders with criminal records that will take effect immediately and be implemented by November 1, 2020, according to a news release.

“People who have made mistakes often deserve a second chance, and having a job helps turn lives around. Not only will this help reduce recidivism, it will give state government access to more qualified job applicants who now don’t even get the chance to show what good employees they would be,” the Governor said in the news release.

Executive Order 158 will affect the more than 1.7 million people in North Carolina who have a criminal record and may face barriers to employment because of that record. The news release states an estimated 70 million people in the United States – or almost one in three U.S. adults – have prior arrests or convictions. The Order will also:

  • Remove criminal history questions from the application for state employment and prohibit inquiries into an individual’s criminal history during the initial stages of the hiring process;
  • Prohibit the consideration of expunged or pardoned convictions, charges unrelated to the underlying employment matter, arrests not resulting in a conviction, dismissed or ruled not guilty, unless the hiring is prohibited by law;
  • Require that necessary background checks not be conducted before the initial job interview for the candidate;
  • Require state agencies to provide a reasonable opportunity for applicants to explain the circumstances surrounding relevant conviction(s) and provide proof of rehabilitation, including a Certificate of Relief; and
  • Require the North Carolina Department of Administration to conduct a study on the feasibility of implementing a fair chance hiring policy that would extend to businesses that contract with the state.

In addition to collecting data to monitor implementation, the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR) will provide training and ensure all state agencies remain compliant with this order. Governor Cooper encouraged all state, county, and municipal government agencies and private employers to implement this change as well.

“Ban the Box” refers to the box on job applications that applicants must check if they have a criminal record. North Carolina will join 35 states and more than 150 cities and counties, including more than ten in the state, in reducing employment barriers for ex-offenders, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

According to the NELP, access to employment is vital for successful reentry to communities after imprisonment. Removing the criminal history question from the state’s employment application and implementing fair chance hiring policies will allow those with a criminal history to be more fairly considered based on their qualifications.

Ban the Box laws and second chance programs that give job applicants with a prior criminal record a chance to find work are spreading rapidly in the U.S., according to the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2020 that was compiled by leading global background check provider Employment Screening Resources® (ESR).

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) offers a white paper on “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce,” an “ESR Ban the Box Resource Guide for States, Counties & Cities,” and a Ban the Box Resource Page with an interactive map with Ban the Box laws. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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