Hiring Candidates with Criminal Backgrounds [Pt. 2]

A Guest Blog for the EmpLAWyerologist [Pt. 2]

Our guest blogger, Lisa Forbes of LFI, returns this week to tell us more about why it is in your interest as an employer to consider hiring candidates with a criminal history. Click here if you missed last week’s post. Otherwise join us as we hear more from Lisa on this very timely, very relevant issue– after the jump, of course!

What types of positions do you recommend employers fill by considering hiring restored citizens?

I believe we need a mind-set that envisions qualified, professional restored citizens in career level positions.  Many restored citizens while incarcerated take every class and get every college degree or certificate that is available to them – paid for by taxpayers, by the way – and then when they come out they are only offered jobs for which they are grossly overqualified and that trap them in perpetual under-employment.   I believe people need to enter the workforce on the level at which they are actually capable of performing and in positions for which they are in fact competent.  They should not be automatically placed in entry-level, low-wage, transitional jobs where they don’t earn enough to pay rent or, in some cases, even get off food stamps.  Why should someone with professional or white-collar skills be relegated to unemployment person with a background issue does have professional or white-collar skills, simply because of a past offense? Let’s focus on their current restoration rather than on their past offense

After all, hasn’t the taxpayer paid enough for that person’s incarceration, and for many of them, their education while they were incarcerated?  At least let them work now and take care of themselves.

What about those stories about people with criminal convictions being hired for a job. who hurt co-workers, customers or members of the public? How can you guarantee that a restored citizen they won’t harm an employer’s business or reputation?

I consult and train employers who choose or are required to follow EEOC guidelines where applicable, or state and local laws and regulations that mirror EEOC guidelines.  Therefore, if a job applicant is qualified for an open position and the nature of the crime for which they were convicted has no direct connection to the duties of the position, the applicant cannot be summarily rejected because a background check revealed a conviction.  At the same time though, if a person struggles with addiction, they probably shouldn’t work in a pharmacy; a person with a recent history of theft shouldn’t be in a position where they are responsible for a company’s finances; a person convicted of child abuse should not work around children.  In cases such as these, an employer has a strong argument that rejecting such candidates is consistent with business necessity, If however, we are simply dealing with fear, my staff training and professional redevelopment services can address that.   Employers should take the same intelligently calculated risks with restored citizens as they do in many other areas of business, and engage an advisor such as LFI in this area just like you have a financial advisor or a legal advisor.

Many people out of work haven’t broken the law. Shouldn’t we focus on them first?

According to a July 2013 study by Express Employment, the nation’s largest privately held staffing company, more than 3.8 million jobs in the U.S. are not filled due to the lack of what corporations call “qualified workers.”  Many of these jobs – such as office services, sales and marketing and industrial positions – do not require a college education. Ironically, while 3.8 million American jobs go unfilled, an estimated 65 million Americans are told not to even bother applying if they have a conviction of any kind.   Everyone knows that the real unemployment rate is much higher than the official one.  We’ll never get the real unemployment rate down to the level we’re being told that it is unless we put all hands on deck – and that includes restored citizens.  With high unemployment being presented to us as the “new normal,” and approximately 3.8 million jobs being left unfilled, we cannot afford to deny qualified Americans the opportunity to fill these positions because of a sentence that has been served and discharged.

You say that compliance with changing employment laws regarding restored offenders is only means to an end. What do you think is the end game for an employer who wants to comply?

The end game for an employer is always growth and profit while meeting their fiduciary duties to stakeholders and their legal responsibility (including safety) to employees.  There is no contradiction in achieving those objectives and in hiring restored citizens.  It requires a plan and an approach that gets incorporated into an employer’s total business strategy.  LFI can help an employer to develop that plan.

How are you qualified to lead employers through the process of integrating restored citizens into a company’s existing personnel?

The strategy employers need to safely hire restored citizens cannot be intelligently planned nor effectively executed by someone who has not had one foot in each of these worlds.  I have, and I have personally designed a plan to get these feet walking together toward a defined destination with no noticeable limp.  My Signature 3-Step Process is to IdentifyAnalyze, and Catalyze.  I provide strategy, on-going operational support, and follow-up to ensure the success of both employers and restored citizens I don’t talk about things I haven’t experienced. I have a problem with inconsistencies such as born millionaires being the experts on poverty and people who’ve never been incarcerated being the experts on re-entry. I’ve been the friend of murder victims cheering for the prosecution and the convict at the mercy of ignorant jurors and corrupt state officials. I’ve been the mentally ill and the sanest person in the room, the emotionally disturbed and the ambassador of peace.  I’ve been the young child who looked and felt much older, the middle-aged person who looked much younger and felt like a little kid, the single mom, the married woman, and the divorcee.  I’ve been the employee, the entrepreneur, the renter, the homeowner, and I’ve also been homeless. But step-by-step, with a plan, I reconstructed myself into becoming who I decided to be and who employers needed me to be when I was working for them, and this is something I can teach anyone to do using my plan and the tools I have to work that plan.

Aren’t you the exception?

Restored citizens wanting to enter the workforce, wanting to be great employees with successful careers, and having the skills to do that are NOT the exception. My process takes into account all available skills, determines when and where those skills are transferable, and develops those skills in different areas, wherever employers most need them.  Transferable skills are those that a prisoner or parolee develops in order to survive, but which are similar in nature to skills that would be required in the business world.  LFI would be happy to discuss exactly those skills are, and how they transfer into an employer’s specific business.

Disclaimer: This post’s contents are for informational purposes only, are not legal advice and do not create an attorney-client relationship. Always consult with competent employment counsel on any issues discussed here.

Posted on March 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

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