According to the latest data from the National Conference of State Legislatures (a bipartisan trade organization for legislators and staff), approximately 77 million Americans had a criminal record in 2020.
This can make it more difficult for them to find jobs even in times of shortages.
Han Lu, a Senior Staff Attorney at the National Employment Law Project, says, “What’s going on here is that employers are unwilling to hire, regardless the conduct associated with the conviction.”
This is how business owners can weed out qualified applicants even if they don’t intend to do so because of criminal records.
Here are some things you can do in order to give these candidates a fair shot.
Let job postings clearly state your position
According to the National Employment Law Project, fifteen states and 22 cities have passed legislation to “ban the box” that applies to private employers. 37 states have also banned the use of public-sector jobs in their boxes.
Employers are prohibited from asking about arrests or convictions in job applications.
Lu suggests that you remove this question from all your applications, even if it’s not necessary.
span class=”_2GMChG HTML3-to_p The box’s] mere existence is seen by an applicant with the record that they won’t get the job,” Lu said, noting that it could discourage other qualified candidates from applying.
Add language to your job postings to clearly invite applications from people with criminal records. Lu gives two examples: “We value diversity, including previous contact with the criminal justice system.” and “People with records should apply .”
Lu states that these kinds of things may seem superficial but really matter.
Rethink background checks
Lu suggests that background checks be saved until you have extended an offer. If the background check reveals a criminal record, please share it with the candidate so that you can go over the results.
Background checks can be approached with nuance. For example, an arrest may be found on background checks even though the person has never been convicted or charged with a crime. A 2022 study published in Science Advances found that nearly half of Black men were arrested at least once prior to the age of 36. More than half of those who have been unemployed for a while have a criminal record.
“How many Black men have been stopped and recorded in the system over the past 50 years when they didn’t get convicted of any crime?” Harley Blakeman, founder of Honest Jobs is a job-seeking platform that supports people with criminal records. It’s unfair and biased to say that they were arrested on the record .'”
Blakeman states that it’s okay if background checks aren’t performed as efficiently by your company, depending on the role you are hiring. You might be uncomfortable hiring someone who has been convicted of identity theft for a job that involves customers’ personal data. If your team liked the candidate enough to offer a job, they might be a good fit for another position.
Blakeman recommends that background checks be performed by one person in human resource to minimize the effects of bias.
Understanding the business value
Giving people who have criminal records a fair chance could help you find better job candidates in an historically tight labor market. Blakeman says.
“We are not in an employer’s market anymore. Blakeman states that we are in a market where job-seekers are picky. That requires a new strategy .”
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to compromise. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2021, more than 80% of business leaders believed that workers with criminal records were as competent at their jobs as those without them.
Wendi Safstrom is president of the SHRM Foundation. She started an initiative to encourage employers to hire people with record in 2019.
Another benefit is that you might be eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit if you hire someone who was convicted of a crime or released from prison in the past year. According to the IRS, this credit can amount to up to $2,000.
In addition, the Federal Bonding Program is administered by state employment departments. This program provides free fidelity bonds to protect businesses against theft or fraud by employees with criminal records.
Be ready for internal changes
Note that parole officers and court-ordered recovery support meetings may be required for employees who are returning from incarceration. Flexible schedules and time off may be required by employees to fulfill these commitments.
Safstrom suggests connecting with a community-based group that works with former prisoners. This will help you and your company understand the needs of employees with records.
Lu says that by hiring and keeping records-related employees, your company “demonstrates a commitment towards justice and fairness.”
Lu states that it is a fighting chance for workers to create some stability.