Nineteen states and 100 cities and counties ban public agencies and sometimes private businesses from asking job applicants about criminal convictions until late in the application process, when they have had a fair chance to prove their qualifications. President Obama now has ordered federal agencies to take the same step. In an editorial, the New York Times urges Obama to extend the fair-chance requirement to government contractors. Seventy million Americans have criminal histories that can limit or eliminate job opportunities.
Fair-chance laws, often called “ban the box,” have been adopted in both liberal and conservative states as elected officials and businesses have come to understand that shutting people out of work weakens families and communities and leaves qualified people out of the applicant pool. The president wants to avoid another dust-up with Congress over executive authority Because Congress is unlikely to act on this issue, Obama should complete the job he has begun, the Times says.