With the economic upturn, trying to recruit talent in all sectors of the U.S. economy, there is a real need to expand the number of people available in the overall talent pool. Because there is a demand for workers in all skill-levels of the work force, employers are now having to consider hiring from workers who may have a criminal background.
The situation has reached the point where many employers, especially when looking for experienced welders, for example, there is little choice but to seriously consider anyone who is a willing job candidate. For many workers, to check the box on an application to whether or not they have been convicted of a felony can mean they are automatically weeded out and not given any further consideration.
President Barack Obama addressed this very issue in his most recent and final State of the Union address earlier this month on January 12th. For those who have served time in prison, they face a stigma and the very real prospect of being chronically unemployed. Studies have shown that 70% of people who have been released from prison commit another crime within three years. This rate of recidivism is directly in relation with how difficult it is for that former inmate to find employment. (Read more: http://nationswell.com/states-reduce-crime-rate-by-removing-check-off-box-on-job-applications/#ixzz3xzw58HLE)
While federal law does not restrict whether or not a potential employer can ask about a potential worker’s criminal history, EEO laws do prohibit employers from using information to make employment decisions as it violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Further, several states have eliminated the checkbox for felony convictions. More states are considering similar laws to eliminate the felony checkbox.
An announcement on January 13th by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration informed the public and state and county agencies of approximately $5 million in grant monies that is to be used toward establishing at state, county, municipal or regional correctional facilities job centers for that purpose. The grants are intended to implement and support systems that would be used for pre-release services directly to post-release services for inmates.
“These individuals must develop strong problem-solving skills to figure out how to get along in prison,” said Pat Steele, site director for workforce development program Central Iowa Works, based in Des Moines, Iowa. “It’s also likely that they’ve gone through personal challenges that other employees may not have had; they’ve already demonstrated the ability to persevere and overcome adversity.”
Here are some guidelines for employers to think about when looking at the background of potential employees.
If the person has a record, look at the whole picture. Many states, counties and other government agencies have workforce development centers that specialize in training or re-training those who may have criminal histories and are transitioning back into society. By working with these agencies, you may find a candidate who will be a good fit because they have developed the job skills necessary beforehand.
Many former inmates receive workplace skills and training that will make them extremely job ready. Because many are on parole, they often have to undergo drug-testing, observe specific curfews and report regularly to a parole officer. Many have had to demonstrate a consistent level of accountability that makes them just as viable a hiring choice as many who don’t have a prior record.
If an employer is still concerned about potential liabilities that may be incurred by hiring a candidate with a criminal history, all 50 states offer insurance bonds and are available through the Federal Bonding Program under the Department of Labor. These bonds may also be eligible for tax credits and other incentives. More information can be obtained at your state’s employment or job service office.
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