Hiring on the Square? Beware: EEOC IS Watching

On April 25, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), by a four to one vote, enacted regulations that directly affect company hiring policies and practices. Hiring managers not in the know or playing on a discriminatory field, you best listen up. For individuals with an arrest or conviction, the following information and tools are dedicated to you.

As of recent, companies instituting a “blanket ban” elimination policy that targets potential employees who happen to have an arrest or conviction in their background, those days of instant slicing are numbered.

Fact: New EEOC regulations no longer allow companies to automatically eliminate candidates on the basis of an arrest.

This single act affects an estimated 65 million United States adults (not to mention their families) who are saddled by a criminal record. Before getting overly emotional (as the pendulum swings), companies still make their own decisions when it comes to hiring. When it comes to considering ex-felons, company policy and agents must now consider business necessity.

Fairly easy to follow and defined by the EEOC, employers are obligated to examine three factors in making an employment decision:

1.  The nature and gravity of the offense
2.  The time that has passed since the conviction and/or sentenced completion
3.  The nature of the job held or sought

For individuals with a career barrier, these new rulings are aimed to give you an opportunity to explain a report of criminal activity before being rejected. Knowing identity and information errors occur, an opportunity to explain could resolve hesitation before it gets out of control.

Wondering if there is bite to the EEOC bark? Ask Pepsi Co. Due to discriminatory hiring practices, Pepsi Co. recently settled litigation and agreed to pay 300 African American males a total of $3.13 million.

By way of specifics, Pepsi’s old policy screened out applicants who had been arrested but never convicted, applicants convicted for minor offenses, and applicants convicted decades earlier. The EEOC found that Pepsi’s policy violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits any form of employment discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, and other protected categories.

The EEOC based its finding of a Title VII violation on the fact that African Americans are more likely to be barred by Pepsi’s old policy than other demographic groups. According to the FBI’s annual crime report, African Americans represent 28.3 percent of all arrests in the United States—yet only 12.9 percent of the U.S. population.

By way of summary, highlights of the EEOC’s new criminal record guidance is as follows:

  • Firing existing employees with no performance or safety issues because a new employer taking over a business learns of a record when conducting background checks of the workforce;
  • The three “business necessity” factors (age of the offense, seriousness of the offense, and the relationship to the job) contained in the EEOC’s 1987 convictions policy;
  • On line applications that kick people out when they indicate that they have a criminal record are no longer an acceptable hiring practice;
  • The conclusion that across-the-board exclusions usually violate Title VII; and
  • The prohibition against considering arrests that have not led to convictions

Does this mean companies must hire individuals possessing an arrest or conviction? Title VII does not regulate the acquisition of criminal history information. However, another federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (FCRA), does establish several procedures for employers to follow when they obtain criminal history information from third-party consumer reporting agencies.

Let’s review the landscape by detailing a few statistics as to why this ruling is significant:

  • One in 29 adults between the ages of 20 and 34 in the U.S. is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure jumps to 1 in 9
  • Nationwide, 13 percent of black men have lost the right to vote, a rate that is seven times the national average
  • One in every 99 U.S. adults are behind bars
  • Fifty percent of all ex-offenders are unemployed
  • The U.S. prison population is currently 2.3 million individuals
  • 1 in 35 citizens have been arrested, convicted, and/or imprisoned

Making fair employment decisions based upon a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities just lost an elimination loophole.

Heed the EEOC warning: Companies not on the square and relying on a blanket ban to discriminate against qualified ex-felons may find themselves with more than a slap on the hand.

On a professional note, I recently conducted workshops at two national conferences (NACE and APSCU) where we discussed “guiding students with career barriers.” Few career directors in the audience were aware of the EEOC changes, which was surprising. Fortunately many at the conference have been empowered by knowledge and are better equipped to inform and assist companies to modify their hiring procedures.

For those not in attendance, ignorance of EEOC regulations is not a defense.

Individuals with an arrest or criminal background, there is hope as well as many resources you can use to better equip and sell yourself as well as enhance the chances of gaining and succeeding in an interview. One such tool is found through a “letter of explanation.”

A letter of explanation is a single-page account defining the circumstances surrounding a specific incident. This powerful asset (when written properly) desensitizes interviewer objections by outlining personal/professional growth. For more information on this topic and our career-barrier focused booklet designed to assist ex-felons gain employment as well as information regarding our diverse career courseware library dedicated to career success, visit www.edu-cs.com or go to Amazon (search Danny at ECS).

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

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Company Connection

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to meet career professionals from across the United States as well as beyond our boundaries during the APSCU and NACE conferences held in Las Vegas. One common theme among participating career professionals had to do with the methods one can one to “speak the right language” when responding to a job posting. In other words, what can one do to enhance a company connection and get called in for an interview?

Like I tell all of my clients, the resume and cover letter MUST detail, in a valuable and error-free fashion, what the employer is seeking, not what you want from the company. I know it sounds easy but the truth of the matter is YOU must take an active role if you want to succeed. Enough said as this is common sense; after all, who in their right mind would send a resume highlighting electrical skills for a bartender job posting? Certainly not you! With this said, time for company connection…

Rule #1: Make sure your cover letter and resume is targeting the right job posting. Yes, you guessed it, this means redoing your cover letter and resume for each job posting.

For those wanting to take the easy way out and decide to send a one-size-fitting all resume, think about the employer for a moment. Nothing like impressing a human resources professional like reading a template… NOT.

On a first-hand basis, when I receive a resume that I know was not tailored to the position, the candidate is automatically disqualified. In case you’re wondering, it’s easy to tell which are tailored and which are not… so don’t fool yourself.

Rule #2: Research the company (if possible) and incorporate relevant information (check out the mission statement) in your cover letter. For example, if you are interested in a position with a company who engages in community involvement, don’t forget to mention the volunteer work performed over the summer at the local animal shelter.

Rule #3: Take advantage of keywords and phrases from the job posting. One method of making sure you don’t forget to highlight what the company needs is to take advantage of a free online tool from tagcrowd.com. For those unfamiliar with this resource, this is your lucky day.

* Copy and paste the job posting into tagcrowd.com, change word redundancy to 3 (or more), and submit. The result will amaze you by displaying the most common words used within the posting. Once you have these high priority words at your disposal, incorporate those applicable to your skills and interest.

By following the above three rules, you will increase the odds of a company connection by speaking the right language. Not only will these rules assist you in being recognized as the right candidate, your interviewing skills will also improve (as you will now respond to questions based upon what the company wants… NOT what you want).

For those interested in guidelines, samples, and applications on how to improve your resume and cover letter, consider investing in the Career Intelligence Series job search library of cutting edge workbooks. Visit www.edu-cs.com or Google (search Danny at ECS) for more information and a complete listing.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC

Education Career Services
Follow me on Twitter: DannyatECS

NUMBS the Word

Beyond the opinionated rhetoric and political manipulation catering to personal agendas to the point of complete detachment, I am finding it hard pressed for the current controlling party and leader to claim our career landscape to be petals and roses. More than that, I find it personally revolting to believe the America’s masses are satisfied with the solvent green approach to career number manipulation.

Getting back to social normalcy (but only for a moment) let’s take a forged path and review recent fodder from the “Career Thought Leaders” findings of the 2011 Global Career Brainstorming Day. Adding credibility to this column, the following represents a sampling of the employability challenges we are facing.

* The ongoing recession impacts employment, producing these trends:

1. More competition at lower-level jobs. Job seekers are applying for lower-paying/lower-status jobs in an effort to find work after long periods of unemployment.

2. Increasing competition from foreign workers, most notably for jobs requiring specific skills or offering very low pay.

3. Lack of relevant experience. There is a growing trend for recent grads to take unpaid internships to gain experience.

4. Underemployment. Educated workers have taken jobs outside their area of expertise, therefore making less money and usually experiencing less job satisfaction.

5. Ageism. Older workers may not be hired unless they can prove they are capable of keeping up and are up to date with current practices and technologies.

* Reinvention and transition are not new, but are growing. Career professionals have always seen people who needed to reinvent themselves in the wake of the death of a dream. But the growing number of reinvention cases may correlate with broader shifts in the external environment.

* Challenges with long-term unemployed may exceed the expertise of career professionals. Job seekers facing issues such as depression and shame that accompany long-term unemployment may require assistance from qualified mental health professionals.

* Volunteer and part-time work can build valuable experience and open opportunities. Although not a solution to unemployment, such experience can be extremely helpful in keeping the job seeker’s “worker mindset,” can add valuable content to the resume, and may lead to a full-time opportunity.

With the above “NOW” trends actually happening, what does it mean for the lower- and middle-wage earner who happens to be underemployed or unemployed?

Here’s a hint: Nothing is going to change in the immediate future but that does mean the television and radio paid advertisements won’t assure us to the contrary. Hate to be the bearer of bad news but listening without hearing the power elite’s schema conveniently hiding just below the paid words serving to deceive the Jerry Springer watchers simply will not satisfy any more.

For those fortunate to have a full-time position and are not under the influence of “who’s my baby’s daddy,” keep up the good work and if you ever think about complaining, think again. For those seeking employment, maybe it is time to roll up your sleeves, forget about the DNA test, and do whatever it takes to survive. That would include seeking volunteer or community efforts, undergoing professional development workshops into a field less elastic to economic sways, and a redefinition of sorts.

While on the subject: Does anybody really believe the crap portrayed so brilliantly on Jerry?

Being an election year, many will be hearing about an economic upswing and how holding on for four more years will push us “forward.” Not sure where this “forward’ will take us but the term has been used on other political platforms… anybody remember what happened to those? I don’t claim to know what will happen tomorrow but I do know what is happening now… and I’m not impressed.

The career challenges we are facing today will not go away until we recognize the political agendas fueling cultural numbness. Go ahead, pinch yourself… have we become cultural zombies lacking the capacity to feel or has that vanished too.

Perhaps NOW is the time to wake up, recognize the mess we are in, and actually do something about it. Being unemployed is ugly… no matter which leader tells us otherwise.

Hoping you listen to what has yet to be said,

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs