Gay People, Black People, and Convicts

You know how some people used to say (and may still say) that the argument for gay rights “is just like the civil rights issue for Black people?”  It’s not.  They are two completely separate concerns.  They have independent bases upon which to invoke justice.  Both deserve to stand on their own and be considered as sovereign and distinct societal issues, without being blended into or compared to anything else.

Having said that, and at the risk of sounding hypocritical, let me now compare two issues that fall under the expanding umbrella of “diversity” – the case for employing people with disabilities, and the case for employing restored citizens.

Rest assured, I can hear the moral outrage – how dare I compare those with disabilities with restored citizens.  But hear me out, because this isn’t about equating or even associating two unquestionably dissimilar classes of people.  It’s about making the one, single economic case that just happens to benefits both groups, which is:

We cannot afford to waste talent.

In our current state of economic affairs, no skill set is dispensable.  We need all hands on deck, bringing all the aptitude and capacity they have to help row this boat to a shore that resembles the American dream we once had.

This is not about charity, tolerance, or even being a good person.  The argument in favor of making the fullest use of all of our human resources do not rely on one’s willingness to hold another person’s hand and sing kumbaya.

This is a business case.  The argument in favor of it requires enlightened self-interest and the ability to do basic math.

Both of these groups of citizens should have the opportunity to earn income at the level consistent with their capacities.  This would allow them to purchase those goods and services that come with a higher price tag.  Since 2012, The Brilliant Hiring Forecast has conducted a quarterly survey of human resources professionals and hiring managers in the accounting, finance and IT professions within a variety of industries, including financial services, professional services, health care and nonprofits, among others.  According to their Q3 2014 Hiring Forecast, businesses in accounting, finance and IT are reporting a significant increase in unfilled staff positions.  Moreover, in the latest survey by The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International, about 33% of small-business owners and chief executives said they had unfilled job openings last month because they couldn’t identify qualified candidates.

Many restored citizens have professional skills and certifications that would qualify them for these unfilled professional positions.  But instead of being given the opportunity to have those careers, they are frequently marginalized to high turnover, minimum wage jobs.

The absence of a plan to realize the potential of an untapped workforce of tens of millions of American citizens is an economic travesty and a failure of leadership.  According to a survey released in April by the Society for Human Resource Management, only a minority of businesses have adopted any diversity initiatives.  Fewer still have considered diversity issues specifically related to disabled employees – and almost none are dealing with restored citizens, except those that have been sued by EEOC or mandated by changing state and local employment law.

When chronically unemployed people seek continual assistance from increasingly cash-strapped states, it exacerbates the fiscal and social problems that already exist.  Tax dollars are diverted to pay for a host of government programs, most of which fail to achieve their stated objectives.  Employment can reduce or eliminate the need for government help.  The opportunity for an unemployed or under-employed restored citizen to have a career making work opportunity would eliminate the need for many if not most of these social programs.

A workforce that is as diverse as possible is good business and good public policy.  Businesses would do well – legally, socially and financially – to adopt proactive diversity initiatives that include integrating restored citizens into their workforce.

My Signature 3-Step Program is a roadmap for doing this safely and profitably.  Contact me to find out how.


As a Restored Recruiter Lisa Forbes is redefining what it means to be a qualified employee and empowering restored citizens to rise above their conviction. Learn more at Also connect with Lisa via Facebook I Twitter I LinkedIn I Youtube


Posted on August 27, 2014 in Journal

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