In line with his criminal justice reform agenda, Governor Deal issued an executive order to improve employment opportunities for individuals with a criminal history. The order lays the groundwork to prohibit the use of a criminal record as an automatic bar to state employment. Positions of a sensitive nature will be exempted from the executive order.
The policy is commonly known as “banning the box,” a reference to the check box often included in employment applications that asks whether applicants have a criminal record.
Governor Deal’s executive order makes Georgia the fourteenth state to improve public employment opportunities for persons with a criminal record and the first in the Deep South. The City of Atlanta and Fulton County have similar policies in place already.
The movement to improve employment opportunities for those with criminal records has gained significant traction in recent years. In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission endorsed “banning the box” as a best practice. Six states including Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island have extended the policy to apply to private employers, as well.
This may not be the last civil rights issue we see come up with respect to state employees. Karla Drenner’s HB 323 would extend nondiscrimination protections to state employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.