A bipartisan group of civil rights, advocacy, and business organizations, including CCRC, are calling on Congress to take immediate action to remove barriers based on arrest or conviction history for small business owners seeking COVID-19 federal relief. This is an issue we have been covering in depth in recent posts. This call to action—available in PDF and reprinted below—is issued by the following organizations (with additional sign-ons welcome; contact us here):
American Civil Liberties Union
Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
Collateral Consequences Resource Center
College & Community Fellowship
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
Drug Policy Alliance
Georgia Justice Project
Interfaith Action for Human Rights
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana
Justice Action Network
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Main Street Alliance
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Employment Law Project
Out For Justice
Public Interest Law Center
Reproductive Justice Inside
Root & Rebound
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
Women Against Registry
*Note: the letter was originally issued on April 10 and was last updated on April 17.
More than two dozen organizations dedicated to improving employment opportunities for people with a criminal record have written to the FDIC urging that it give regulated financial institutions greater latitude to hire qualified people without having to ask the FDIC’s permission. The occasion is the FDIC’s proposal to reduce to a formal rule its longstanding policy on employment of convicted individuals by banks, a proposal that suggests the FDIC may be open to giving banks more hiring autonomy by relaxing several controversial provisions. For 20 years, the FDIC has kept a tight grip on banks, requiring them to obtain a waiver before they may hire anyone with a record even in an entry-level non-professional position. In operation, this policy has been an effective bar to bank employment for most people with a conviction record (and even for some who have never been convicted).
The letter, organized by the National Employment Law Project and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, points out that FDIC’s exclusionary policy is not required by its enabling statute, and urges the agency to bring its policy on hiring waivers into line with national efforts to further reintegration, in several different ways, some of which are discussed below. The letter cites the bipartisan federal Fair Chance Act and corresponding reforms in states across the country (as reported by CCRC), as well as many letters from bank industry leaders urging the FDIC to relax its rigid policy that has frustrated efforts to diversify the financial sector’s work force.
The comment below provides some background for the FDIC’s proposal, and comments on where some relaxation of its present policy is likely. It concludes with a note about the generally confusing and inconsistent treatment of state relief mechanisms like expungement and pardon in federal laws and regulations, suggesting that this is an area sorely in need of further study and proposals for reform.