Day 18

Fair Chance Hiring Policy

We must eliminate unfair barriers to employment for qualified workers with criminal records.  One way to accomplish this task is through a Fair Chance Hiring Policy.  Across the U.S., over 50 cities and counties and 10 states (from every region of the country) have embraced the opportunity to provide fair chances during the hiring process by “banning the box”.  “Ban the Box” campaigns have successfully initiated removal of the question on initial job applications asking about an applicant’s criminal record history and delays the background check inquiry until later in the hiring process.  The removal of this question about criminal record history allows for the applicant to have a fair chance to prove oneself capable of performing the job duties and explain the circumstances of their criminal record history.

Banning the box enlarges the applicant pool and provides employers the opportunity to perform an individualized assessment of the applicant, thus allowing for employers to increasingly find more qualified employees.  A Fair Chance Hiring Policy would still allow for employers to perform background checks and discuss criminal record history with applicants.  It would just push this discussion back to later in the hiring process, to a point where an applicant has been deemed initially qualified for the job.  At this time, the employer can provide an individualized assessment of the applicant, the applicant’s qualifications for the particular job, and if the individual’s specific criminal record history indicates that the applicant cannot perform the job safely and satisfactorily.

In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a guidance for employment decisions considering arrests and convictions.  This guidance applies to all private and public employers.  In this EEOC Enforcement Guidance, the EEOC endorses “ban the box” (what I call a Fair Chance Hiring Policy) as a best practice.  The EEOC also suggests that in the hiring process blanket prohibitions against applicants with criminal record histories likely violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.  Blanket prohibitions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin, as national data supports.  So instead, the employer must make hiring decisions concerning applicants with criminal record histories that are “job-related and consistent with business necessity”.  The best way to accomplish this necessary task is through a targeted screen — considering at least the nature of the crime, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job. *see these factors in Green v. Missouri Pacific Railroad

Stable employment is a crime-fighting tool.  Thus, a Fair Chance Hiring Policy will also enhance public safety.   According to a study in Illinois that followed 1,600 individuals released from state prison, only eight percent of those who were employed for a year committed another crime, compared to the state’s 54 percent average recidivism rate. *see Lurigio, Art, “Presentation of Safer Foundation Recidivism Study at the 135th Congress of Correction.”  Joblessness, not race or culture or socioeconomic status, is the major controlling factor explaining the high rates of crime in poor communities, especially those of color. Controlling for joblessness, researchers found that differences in violent crime rates between young black and white men disappear. *see Donald Braman, Doing Time on the Outside: Incarceration and Family Life in Urban America, p. 219.

One study found that lowered job prospects of people with felonies and formerly incarcerated people cost the U.S. economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.  Not to mention that serving time reduces annual earnings for men by 40 percent, meaning their families too often fall into a poverty trap. *see “Ban the Box” Fair Hiring Policies Take Hold Around the Nation

The “box” prevents all of these extremely positive things (and so many more!) from happening in your community, at your business, and for your neighbor.  Why wouldn’t we ban the box?

Together, let’s push for a Fair Chance Hiring Policy in our cities, counties, and states, so that across our nation our brothers and sisters with criminal records will receive a fair chance in the hiring process and a legitimate opportunity to re-establish oneself as a self-sustaining, productive member of society.  That’s what we all want, isn’t it?!  So let’s get that silly little box, and our not so silly prejudices that go with it, out of the way.

Check back tomorrow for some very specific ways we can support this movement toward Fair Chance Hiring Policies, and how there is still much more that can and needs to be done.

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