According to OPM.gov, having a felony conviction does not preclude you from getting hired by the government.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or the government hiring agency determines the offenses you committed in determining suitability for employment.
However, generally there are no prohibitions against employment. Factors that are considered include the duties that are related to the positions for which you have applied the nature and date for any misconduct and evidence of rehabilitation.
This article will cover the following:
- Employment Debarments
- “Ban the Box” Executive Orders
- Restricted Applications – FBI Mandates
- Applying to the Government – How to Proceed
While there are not general prohibitions against employment, there are some mandates that will keep you from working in certain jobs, depending on your conviction.
One of the most common instances entails being convicted of domestic violence crimes under State or Federal law. Persons who are convicted of these misdemeanor crimes are “prohibited from employment in any position requiring the individual: to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition. . . .” (Public Law 1-4-208 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997).
Other regulatory or statutory debarments do exist, but rarely are applicable. Debarment from Federal employment can be instituted for such offenses as inciting rebellion, treason, unlawful and willful destruction of public records or willfully supporting the Government’s overthrow.
“Ban the Box” Executive Orders
The Obama administration has made it easier for felons to gain employment within the Federal government. “Ban the box” executive orders that have been announced (11/02/2015) that come upon the heels of a massive release of up to 6,000 felons convicted of drugs.
The measures of the move delay the ability of federal contractors or federal employment personnel to find out if a job applicant has a criminal history. Currently, the President has directed the OPM to modify its rules in order to delay inquiries about a criminal record until later in the employment process.
Restricted Applications – FBI Mandates
According to a transcript in an October 14, 2009 issue of the Washington Post, career counselor Derrick Dortch further elaborated on obtaining a government career with a felony conviction.
In the transcript he said, “. . . .[A] person with a felony conviction can work for the federal government. However, there are some positions that will not allow a person with a felony to work for them. Many of these jobs are law enforcement or justice related. For example, the FBI will not allow a person with a felony to work for them. When you start the application process with these agencies you should check first to make sure.”
Mr. Dortch said that it is best to check about your chances of employment by going to the website for the agency. Look at the employment page and find out if there are any kinds of disqualifiers.
For example, the FBI website lists the following disqualifiers:
- Conviction of a felony
- Use of illegal drugs in violate of the Employment Drug Policy for the FBI
- Default of a U.S. Government insured student loan
- Failure to pass a urinalysis drug test administered by the FBI
- Failure of male candidates to register with the Selective Service
To see exactly what will show up on your record when you apply to a federal position, we recommend that you use this service.
Applying to the Government: How to Proceed
While these disqualifiers keep you from applying for positions in the FBI, they are not blanket restrictions.
Each agency has its own rules in this regard. Although the majority of agencies will not disqualify individuals with a felony conviction, you may still want to contact the HR office and check to make sure.
If you do apply and need to get a clearance, then tell the agency about your conviction.
When you apply for Federal employment then, it is essential that you include all the needed details about your criminal history on your application.
In turn, the OPM or hiring agency can also determine if any specific prohibition is currently in force. To make sure that you have your details correct, we highly recommend that you check your background here so you know exactly what authorities will see.
Mr. Dortch stated two instances where clearance was granted for felony convictions.
In one of the cases the applicant received an aggressive driving charge which was eventually dismissed. Later, he was arrested for reckless driving, disobeying a law enforcement officer and fleeing. He was charged with the second degree felony of fleeing and, during probation, completed 100 hours of community service. He had been driving almost 20 years without incident when he applied to the government. Because he mitigated criminal conduct and personal conduct concerns for a security clearance, clearance was granted.
Another applicant, who was cleared, was arrested and charged for possession of a narcotic controlled substance and driving while intoxicated. Because she had no history of drug or alcohol abuse and she had not previously been arrested before or after the incident, clearance was approved.
Mr. Dortch recommended that felons apply to Federal jobs, except in the areas of law enforcement and a couple other fields. Review the agency requirements first and check out the disqualifiers. If there are no disqualifiers, apply like any other job candidate. If you have served your time, you have indeed paid your debt to society.
What do you think? Should government entities accept former felons?