Advocacy Groups Call Out Discriminatory Practices in Federal Employment

By Shani Saxon Apr 25, 2019

Advocacy groups fired off responses to the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) proposed update to the Declaration for Federal Employment, Optional Form (OF306), saying it would cause barriers to federal employment for people who have been arrested or convicted of a crime.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund (TLCEF) responded to the proposed changes with a letter that expresses concern that they would not only discriminate against people with arrest or conviction records, but would also specifically hurt “people of color, transgender people, people with a history of substance use and/or mental health disorders and other communities who should be affirmatively valued and respected in the hiring process.” TLCEF is primarily concerned with OPM asking applicants to “report records related to diversion programs (Question 9)” and requiring them to “report aliases (Question 5),” the latter of which could adversely affect the transgender community and domestic abuse survivors.

The TLCEF letter also asks for clarity around OPM’s requirement to include reporting of “any crime.” That expansive language could potentially include common traffic offenses or other basic infractions. The group also urges the federal government to “do everything in its power to be a model employer by creating more opportunities for individuals to experience upward mobility through employment and diversifying the workforce.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) raised its own concerns about OPM’s Question 9. The successful completion of a diversion program—which includes “alternative community based programs” like “mental health treatment, restitution or community service”—means that the person’s conviction is nullified. This matters because convictions can lead to “lifetime consequences of unemployment and restricted access to services.” The organization’s letter stresses that this change would have a disproportionally negative impact on people of color and makes the point that, “a pretrial diversion inquiry presents an unnecessary barrier for people who participated in diversion programs precisely to avoid such a barrier.”

The letters were written on April 23, the last day of the comment period on the proposal. At press time, the OPM had not yet responded to the letters of concern.