Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signed an executive order Friday banning the state from asking about prospective employees' criminal histories at the initial application stage in an effort to boost employment opportunities for individuals with criminal records.
The "ban the box" order removes questions about criminal histories from applications for most state jobs, except for "sensitive" positions or roles where the individual's history pertains directly to the job. The order requires that criminal background checks are only conducted after an applicant has been determined to be otherwise qualified for a specific position and has signed a waiver allowing the release of his or her criminal history.
“In a new Virginia economy, people who make mistakes and pay the price should be welcomed back into society and given the opportunity to succeed," McAuliffe said in a statement. "This Executive Order will remove unnecessary obstacles to economic success for Virginians who deserve a second chance."
The Virginia state Senate passed a "ban the box" bill in February, but the measure died in the state's House of Delegates. McAuliffe later decided to tackle the issue as an executive order. The measure comes one year after the governor expanded voting rights for convicted felons in his state.
The order goes into effect immediately, making Virginia the 15th state to "ban the box" in hopes of easing barriers to employment for the approximately 70 million adults with arrest or conviction records in the United States. Dozens of municipalities have enacted similar policies. As the Washington Post notes, 14 cities in Virginia had already adopted the policy.