Cooper issues Exec. Order No. 158

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks during a press briefing in Raleigh on Wednesday, Aug. 5. Cooper issued Executive Order No. 158 on August 18 that seeks to eliminate employment barriers for individuals with criminal records.

RALEIGH — On Aug. 18, Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 158 to implement fair chance policies at state agencies to increase employment opportunities for people with criminal records. The order is effective immediately and will be implemented by Nov. 1.

North Carolina will join 35 states and more than 150 cities and counties, including more than 10 in North Carolina, in reducing employment barriers for people with criminal records. This order affects the more than 1.7 million people in North Carolina who have a criminal record and may face barriers to employment because of that record.

“People who have made mistakes often deserve a second chance, and having a job helps turn lives around,” Cooper said in a release. “Not only will this help reduce recidivism, it will give state government access to more qualified job applicants who now don’t even get the chance to show what good employees they would be.”

According to the National Employment Law Project, access to employment is vital for successful reentry to communities after imprisonment. Removing the criminal history question from the state’s employment application and implementing fair chance hiring policies will allow those with a criminal history to be more fairly considered based on their qualifications.

Cooper encourages all state, county, and municipal government agencies and private employers to implement this change as well.

According to a release, Executive Order 158 will also:

• Remove criminal history questions from the application for state employment and prohibit inquiries into an individual’s criminal history during the initial stages of the hiring process

• Prohibit the consideration of expunged or pardoned convictions, charges unrelated to the underlying employment matter, arrests not resulting in a conviction, dismissed or ruled not guilty, unless the hiring is prohibited by law

• Require that necessary background checks not be conducted before the initial job interview for the candidate

• Require state agencies to provide a reasonable opportunity for applicants to explain the circumstances surrounding relevant conviction(s) and provide proof of rehabilitation, including a Certificate of Relief

• Require the North Carolina Department of Administration to conduct a study on the feasibility of implementing a fair chance hiring policy that would extend to businesses that contract with the state.

In addition to collecting data to monitor implementation, the Office of State Human Resources will provide training and ensure all state agencies remain compliant with this order.

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