During a recent showcase/job fair, I had the pleasure of meeting K-Duck who was released from prison nine years ago. He was convicted for possession of three ounces of marijuana. Needless to say, his one mistake as a teenager has been a haunting presence on every step.
K-Duck asked about the best way to deal with the employment application question: Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.
No doubt, honesty is the best bet, even if it lessens the odds of getting hired. With this, I quickly remembered what former President George W. Bush said: “America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.”
Could America be the land of second chances and forgiveness?
When it comes to individuals who have been arrested and/or convicted, the rubber does not meet the road as former President Bush passively blew hot air toward the general masses. Ando how we all breathed it in.
Given the unequal ratio between the races, all talk and no walk leads to frustration and eventual revolution. Then again, it appears most of America leans heavily on social inebriation and an “I don’t give a flying ____” attitude when it comes to giving chances to those who have slipped and now need help. Consider the alternative: 50% of those released remain unemployed and a result that half return to prison within three years. Think this has something to do with the lack of support on all ends?
Is this the America, the land of second chance, President Bush was referring to?
Employers legally discriminate by using “The Box” employment application question. According to a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, 92 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks on some or all job applicants, up from 51 percent in 1996 and more than two-thirds of states allow hiring and professional-licensing decisions to be made on the basis of an arrest alone.
This is worth a repeat, arrests can be used to deny professional licensing.
K-Duck, and the millions like him, will continue to struggle unless legal and societal change happens. Fortunately, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently (last week) issued an updated guidance on employers’ use of arrest and conviction records when making employment decisions. For those not knowing what “The Box” represents, here’s the scoop: it is a hiring policy used to exclude anyone (and everyone) without contest. In this case, the blanket hiring ban targets those with an arrest/conviction.
Why would the EEOC get involved and tell employers who they can or cannot hire? Boiling it down to a single factor, “The Box” violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by actively banning minorities. Then again, don’t take my word for it, let’s get a few facts on the table:
- An estimated 65 million United States Adults have criminal records
- One in 29 adults in the United States was either incarcerated or on probation or parole
- While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group, the figure is one in nine
According the latest EEOC statistics, 1 in 17 white men are expected to serve time in prison during their lifetime, compared with 1 in si6x Hispanic men, and 1 in 3 African-American men. Going one step further, banning based upon an arrest effects minorities disproportionately… fair or not, the truth is the truth.
Bottom line: the EEOC recommends that employers should not disqualify a candidate because of an arrest or conviction. Employers still are within their right to perform background checks but they should consider the “nature of the crime, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job” when making a hiring decision. Kudos to putting pressure… now it’s our turn to level the employment field.
Think one voice can’t change the world? Think again, the EEOC recently settled with Pepsi over their use of a blanket exclusion policy and is currently investigating more than 100 claims of job discrimination based on criminal background checks.
Fair or not, those individuals who have slipped and are planning to secure a job, know that getting beyond a blanket ban will be difficult. But it can be done. Think about the company and the many values you bring. Recognize that employers are looking for candidates who can get the job done and those who can be trusted. Being loyal, committed to company goals, and going above job responsibilities will push you toward career advancement.
First step is to develop material that portrays your skills, knowledge, and abilities as an asset. There are effective ways to present you well, even under challenging circumstances. We will review some of these methods but would like your know about your challenges and how best to overcome the blocks standing in the way.
Going back to K-Duck’s question about what to do: don’t mislead any potential employer. If you feel you have been a victim of discrimination, document and take your concerns to the proper authorities. Your voice can be heard and can make a huge difference not only for you but for millions in the shadow.
If you have questions and would like career-related insight or books including, “Overcoming Career Barriers: Mission Possible, visit our website (www.edu-cs.com) or go to Amazon (simply search Danny at ECS).
For additional assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs