Each year in the United States about 700,000 men and women are released from prison and re-enter society, which means those people are in need to re-enter the workforce as well. Even with so many open jobs across industries and employers’ growing need for workers, applicant’s with criminal backgrounds still face a huge bias obstacle with employers. Attitudes towards candidates with criminal histories have shifted over the years, The Society of Human Resources (SHRM) conducted a survey and found that managers and HR professionals show increasing awareness and understanding that a criminal background should not automatically disqualify someone from employment. However, the willingness to hire in theory is not the same in practice. What preconceived notions prevent managers and HR professionals from hiring applicants with criminal histories, and do these concepts reflect reality?
Negligent Hiring Liability
Many companies include a section about criminal history on their employment application and require background checks in their onboarding process to evade being sued for negligent hiring and retention. Although that it is a sound fear in theory, according to Corbett Gordon, a management attorney, during her 35 year career she has never litigated a negligent hiring or retention case based on someone with a criminal background – so it is not as common as one may think.
Fear of Violence, Crime or Misconduct
Employers typically avoid hiring applicants with criminal backgrounds out of fear of them being at high risk of committing acts of violence, theft or other misconduct. According to Corbett Gordon, she has had only one case in her career, embezzlement, where those involved actually had backgrounds. Any other case she had worked on involved perpetrators that did not have criminal histories.
Employers willing to consider candidates who are ex-offenders can check for these supplemental employment credentials:
- Exceptional professional references
- A solid performance record
- A certificate of rehabilitation
- Trained in skillsets the employer is seeking
In a time where there are more open jobs than there are jobseekers, employers should consider the applicant’s with criminal backgrounds. These people are looking for a second chance and more often than not willing and wanting to grow within a company to better their life. Several companies throughout the country have actually partnered with state and federal correctional agencies to give inmates access to real-world opportunities, ranging from more skilled, technical jobs like circuit board manufacturing to fruit packing. These partnerships are benefitting prisoners and businesses; prisoners gain work experience and wages to support themselves and their families while preparing to re-enter society, and businesses gain access to an untapped talent pool. It is time to rethink criminal histories to support ex-offenders’ reintegration into society and utilize more candidates from nontraditional talent pools.