EEOC Issues Federal Workforce Reports Focused on Workers With History of Arrest or Conviction: Relevance to Workforce Development Professionals

In a significant step toward promoting equal employment opportunities, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released two insightful reports that shed light on the federal employment of individuals with arrest or conviction records. These companion reports, developed in support of President Biden’s Executive Order 14035, hold immense relevance for workforce development professionals who are committed to shaping a more inclusive and equitable job market.

The first report, “Second Chances Part I: Federal Employment for Workers With Past Arrests or Convictions,” delves into the employment prospects of individuals with prior arrests or convictions in the federal sector. One of the standout findings is that between 2003 and 2017, individuals with a history of incarceration were only about half as likely to be employed in the federal government compared to those without such records. This discrepancy highlights a pressing concern that workforce development professionals can play a pivotal role in addressing.

As champions of workforce development, professionals in this field can draw valuable insights from the report’s discussions on strategies like “ban-the-box” laws, which delay background checks until later in the hiring process. This approach has shown promise in reducing discrimination against applicants with criminal records. Research indicates that in jurisdictions where these laws have been adopted, more individuals with arrest or conviction records filed complaints, and the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred in more of these cases. It’s a clear indicator that such policies may help level the playing field for these individuals, aligning with the goals of workforce development.

However, the report also underscores the need for additional research and data to evaluate the effectiveness of policies that facilitate federal employment for formerly incarcerated workers and those with prior arrests and convictions. Workforce development professionals can leverage these findings to advocate for evidence-based policies that foster more opportunities for marginalized individuals.

The second report, “Second Chances Part II: History of Criminal Conduct and Suitability for Federal Employment,” focuses on background investigations for federal employment and their outcomes when criminal conduct issues are identified. This information can be invaluable to workforce development professionals as they work to guide individuals with criminal histories towards meaningful employment opportunities. Understanding the intricacies of suitability determinations and the high percentage of favorable outcomes can help professionals in this field provide more informed advice and support to their clients.

Dexter Brooks, associate director of the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations, emphasized the importance of providing employment opportunities to those with arrest and conviction records who have rehabilitated and present a low risk for recidivism. This aligns closely with the mission of workforce development professionals, who aim to empower individuals with the tools and resources they need for successful reintegration into the workforce.

It’s crucial to note that federal equal employment opportunity laws do not outright prohibit the consideration of arrest or conviction records in employment decisions. However, these laws do prohibit discrimination based on race, national origin, or other protected categories resulting from such considerations. The EEOC has issued comprehensive guidance on this matter, clarifying the boundaries within which employers can consider criminal history in their hiring decisions, as outlined in the Enforcement Guidance, Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Guidance in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In conclusion, these reports from the EEOC provide valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by individuals with arrest or conviction records in the federal workforce. For workforce development professionals, they serve as a critical resource, offering data-driven strategies and recommendations to create a more inclusive job market and foster positive change in the lives of those they serve. By addressing these issues head-on and implementing policies that promote fair hiring practices, workforce development professionals can play a pivotal role in advancing the cause of inclusivity and equity in the workforce.