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Koch Industries stops asking job applicants for criminal history

Koch Industries, the company owned by billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch, will no longer ask job applicants whether they have been convicted of a crime.

“The criminal justice system should be improved to enhance public safety, honor the Bill of Rights, and treat everyone involved in the system with dignity and respect, from the accused to the victims of crime to law enforcement,” Mark Holden, the company’s general counsel and a top lieutenant to the brothers, said in a statement.

“Removing the question about prior criminal convictions from our job application process is one way to achieve this goal. As a large United States-based manufacturing company that employs 60,000 American workers we shouldn’t be rejecting people at the very start of the hiring process who may otherwise be capable and qualified, and want an opportunity to work hard,” he added.

{mosads}The company ended the practice last month, a spokesman said. It is still conceivable that applicants could still be subject to background checks later in the hiring process that might uncover a criminal history.

Removing a question about criminal history from job applications — known as “banning the box” — has long been a demand of activists, who contend that it gives employers an easy way to discriminate against people who have been convicted of a crime during the job search process.

“The fact that more and more of our nation’s major employers — including a company like Koch Industries that is synonymous with conservative politics — are choosing to embrace fair-chance hiring policies shows that this is an idea with broad appeal whose time has come,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), said in a statement.

Companies like Walmart and Home Depot have ended the practice, according to NELP, and many municipalities have also banned employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories.

Koch Industries, and Charles Koch in particular, has been vocal about its support for reforming many aspects of America’s criminal justice system, including harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and “asset forfeiture” policies.

There are many proposals in Congress to address criminal justice issues, with some advocates pushing for more comprehensive reform and others urging a more cautious approach. The White House has indicated that President Obama would be open to a number of proposals should they pass.


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