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Did it just get harder to get a federal job?

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently pushed for an expansion of the questions used to determine an applicant’s criminal background used on employment application forms. The agency’s proposal calls for applications to include questions about convictions through alternative programs that may have resulted in an expunged record.

How is this different than the current process? Applications currently request information about any recent convictions or time spent in prison, not enrollment or use of alternative programs.

Critics of the proposal argue the use of this line of questioning is in direct conflict with prison-reform efforts in Congress and the White House. Others point to the fact that this would also be a notable step away from current trends in the private sector. In addition to initiatives that restrict questions about criminal records by public sectors including over 30 states, and 150 local governments, large corporations like Target and Walmart have implemented similar practices.

Those in favor state the proposal would help “close a [question] gap and improve application accuracy.”

Will the proposal pass? It is too early to tell. The proposal was made in February of 2019 and the comment period just ended, April 23 of 2019. The proposal is likely under further review.

Would the proposal apply retroactively? At this time, the proposal does not appear to include a provision making the policy retroactive. As such, even if it did go into effect it is unlikely employers would inquire answers to these questions from recent hires. Such questions could be a violation of federal employees’ rights.

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