A group of 27 U.S. Senators have written to President Obama urging him to implement “fair chance” hiring in federal government employment. The Senators — all Democrats, led by Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) — asked the President to issue an executive order directing federal agencies and contractors to postpone inquiry into criminal records until a later point in the hiring process. The so-called ban-the-box movement in the states has been gaining steam and has been largely bipartisan, with executive orders issued most recently in Georgia and Vermont. Some of the largest employers in the country, including Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Koch Industries have also stopped asking about prior convictions at the beginning of the job application process.
The press release and letter are here. A January 2015 report from the National Employment Law Project suggests that the details of a presidential executive order may be difficult to work out, given the decentralized nature of federal hiring and the applicability of formal background check requirements to a substantial number of federally-funded jobs.