“6 Things You Should Know About the EEOC and Hiring Felons”

07.15.16 | Looking to Hire

You probably are familiar with the question on most job applications that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” and maybe wondered how often felons actually get hired. Unfortunately, although most felons are willing to work and have received specialized training while incarcerated, only around 12.5% of employers surveyed said that they would take applications from ex-convicts.

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The United States’ Equal Employment Opportunity Commission directly addresses how to treat arrest and conviction records when hiring. Found under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII, amended guidance for employers released by the EEOC in 2012 shares some things to know about hiring felons.

1. Leave the “Prior Convictions” Questions Out

Unless it’s job-related, asking about prior convictions on a job application and then denying the applicant based on the response can come off as discriminatory. The law prohibits employers from treating potential employees differently due to their national origin, race, or other disparate factors from the job.

2. Avoid Policies That Automatically Exclude Applicants

Employers should be cautious about creating a policy that can exclude someone from a position based on certain criteria, like their criminal status. This can get an employer in major hot water with the EEOC and can be tough to prove non-discrimination if an applicant files a claim against you. A blanket policy that excludes certain groups can be hard to defend later, like in this Fisher Phillips case study.

3. Don’t Practice Hiring Processes That Can Adversely Affect a Certain Group

Again, anything that is excluding a protected group from being hired based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or criminal status is against the law. Employers should regularly monitor and revise hiring practices if the background screening shows that a protected group is not getting fair treatment.

4. If An Applicant’s Criminal Record Is Unrelated to the Job, Give Them a Chance

If criminal record exclusion is disproportionate to excluding a group based on race or origin, the employer must prove that the exclusion is job-related and necessary to avoid liability. Therefore, job application conviction inquiries should only be related to the position for which the person is applying.

5. Look at All of the Factors Regarding an Applicant’s Offense

Employers should consider all facts and circumstances of the applicant’s conviction before making a judgment on whether to hire him/her. Consider the number of offenses the person has been convicted of, the time at which they occurred, and the rest of the applicant’s employment history. Don’t let the applicant’s criminal record deter you away from the full process-rehabilitation efforts and references can change your mind over what’s on paper.

6. Give the Applicant a Chance to Explain Their Criminal Record

If someone looks stellar in their job application, don’t let their criminal record stop you. This is the perfect time to call them in for an interview and give them a chance to explain what happened. This is a person who is yearning to work and may have the skill set you need to complete the job in a quality and efficient manner.

This is a good reference in conducting criminal background checks. In a continuously changing environment surrounding the legalities of hiring felons, it’s good to have a thorough paper trail and documentation to prove why you made the decision that you did.

Plus, there are many benefits to hiring felons. Employment is a great way for an ex-con to re-enter society while significantly reducing the risk of future incarcerations. Not only can for giving felons an opportunity and a definite purpose in life, but former convicts may also have attributes that you need and value for the job. In this article, Catherine Rohr notices that former gang leaders and drug dealers in her MBA-style program are resourceful, charismatic, and resilient. Give an ex-con a chance, and he/she may be your next star employee.