employment background screening, credentialing, vetting, ban the box

Background Screening and Second Chances – Can They Co-Exist?

On Wednesday, May 10, 2015, the Fair Chance Act passed in New York City.  The vote was a runaway – 45 yeas, five nays, and only one abstention, and it signaled the joining of NYC with over 100 other cities and 17 states that now have similar “ban the box” laws on the books.  This came just a few weeks after the New York City Council passed legislation limiting the timing and scope of the use of credit history for employment background screening purposes.

Proponents of “ban the box” legislation say that the bill, which generally prohibits the employer from asking an applicant about his or her criminal background until a conditional job offer has been made, say that the measure does not change the fact that employers can – and should – investigate the backgrounds of applicants hired for jobs that require handling large sums of money, public safety, and/or working with children.  In fact, the Fair Chance Act’s lead sponsor in NYC, Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), said that “delaying the background check will make it possible for qualified applicants who also happen to have a record to make it through the screening process.”

Ban the box legislation does not, as its critics claim, force employers to hire anyone, nor does it prevent employers from vetting potential employees.  Instead, it gives applicants with a less than perfect past the same chance as anyone else to show a potential employer their qualifications, personality, and skills so that they can at least get in front of an interviewing manager.

There are a few companies out there – household-name sorts of companies – who do believe in offering second chances to those with criminal backgrounds.  They include:

  • Apple: In a statement to Fortune magazine, an Apple spokesman said: “We believe in opportunity for everyone, and Apple has never had a blanket ban on hiring people with felony convictions.”
  • Butterball Farms, Inc.: CEO Mark Peters said in 2012, “Sustainable employment for people coming out of the prison system is critically important. We can demonstrate some economic value in hiring this population. I don’t think that story is told very often and it should be. What you always hear is the risk.”  Since 2013, the company has hired 68 employees with felony records.
  • Homeboy Industries: Run by Father Gregory Boyle, Homeboy Industries opens the door for thousands of former gang members and imprisoned people.  He helps them obtain the training and preparation needed to find jobs and get their lives on track.
  • Cascade Engineering: Executive Vice President Kenyatta Brame says of the “have you ever been convicted” box that appears on most applications, “Some companies use this is as a filter to exclude. Often these policies have an impact on people of color. What we’ve done is taken that question and moved it later on into the process. At Cascade, there is a separate team of executives to decide whether a criminal history will impact hiring.”

On the other side of the bars, there is at least one jail trying to help prep inmates for the challenges they will face after release where finding work is concerned.  The Montgomery County Correctional Facility, in Boyds, Maryland, there is a room outfitted with carpet and rows of chairs where the inmates are called “customers.”  The in-house job-finding program is open to inmates with good behavior within 8 months of their release date.  Mentors in the program help inmates learn how to write resumés and letters to future employers explaining their crimes, taking responsibility for them, and describing their new goals.  The program has been so successful that the Department of Labor said it would grant $10 million in funding to set up similar programs in 20 other communities across the country.  The recidivism rate among inmates who have gone through the program in Montgomery County is 25-30% lower than the national average.

At The Cedalius Group, the employment background screening provider you can trust, we know that the legal and social movement known as “ban the box” is sweeping the nation.  We are committed to offering our clients the latest and most comprehensive background screening, credentialing, and vetting information available in order to provide our clients with the insight they need to make the most educated decisions possible.  Call us today at 404.963.9772 or visit us online for more information on ban the box legislation and setting up your own screening policy!

The Cedalius Group offers insight into the background screening industry for educational purposes.  We always recommend you consult with your legal counsel to determine practices that best suit your business needs.