Would You Hire Someone With a Criminal Record?

Your organization probably believes it needs to do a better job with diversity in hiring, equity, and inclusion.  But, are you willing to hire someone with a criminal record even if it would help you improve your group’s diversity?

The National Employment Law Project reports that an estimated 70 million people in the United States—nearly one in three adults—have a prior arrest or conviction record. We know from various studies that more persons of color are incarcerated than whites.    

This is a difficult subject for some groups as more include a criminal background check as part of the hiring process.  But what would you consider a disqualifier on that background check? And why?

More organizations are considering a ‘fair chance hiring’ initiative.  This means that everyone who qualifies for a job gets an interview before a background check is conducted.  Then after the interview, the details of a background check are revealed.

If a check turns up a conviction, the employer may not use that as the only factor in refusing to hire the candidate.  Instead, they must consider if the criminal act conflicts with the duties of the job.  For example, some states have laws forbidding people with convictions involving children working in schools or daycare facilities.

A total of 35 states have adopted statewide laws or policies applicable to public-sector employment. In 2015, President Obama endorsed the idea by directing federal agencies to delay inquiries into job applicants’ records until later in the hiring process.

Under some of the programs that have been implemented around the country, the employer must tell a candidate why their history prevents them from further consideration.  The person then has a chance to clarify their record.

If this is something your organization is willing to consider, your human resources and legal departments will need to weigh in on such a change.

As you move forward, you can contact community-based organizations that focus on reentry to the workforce for those with a criminal record. It is sure to broaden your applicant pool.

Such a policy may help another problem you might be facing. , a study of John Hopkins Health Systems & Hospital ( where 5% of their workforce has a criminal background)  found that, over four years, fair chance employees had a 43 percent higher retention rate than employees without a criminal record.

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