More than one in four adults – an estimated 65 million Americans – have a criminal record. Job seekers with criminal records often find it nearly impossible to obtain family-sustaining employment, with employers frequently denying consideration to anyone with a criminal record, regardless of qualifications, the nature of the offense, or how far in the past it occurred. A criminal record reduces the likelihood of a job callback by almost half, and African American men experience a more severe disadvantage than white men.xxiii
These hiring practices frequently serve no legitimate purpose, as the recidivism rate for people convicted of most offenses equalizes with that of the general population after 3 to 5 years.xxiv Many of these hiring practices also violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, under which it is illegal for an employer to use any non-job-related selection criterion that has a discriminatory racial impact. While blanket policies that bar the employment of anyone with a criminal record are illegal and ineffective, they are all too common and lock qualified job seekers out of the legal economy.
Today we take action in support of local “Ban the Box” legislation, which would require private employers to take a person-first approach to hiring, looking first at an applicant’s skills and experience, and only then evaluating a criminal record as just one of many factors. To accomplish this, the legislation would require employers to wait until a job applicant has received a conditional offer of employment before asking the applicant about their criminal record or conducting a criminal background check.
This person-first approach to hiring has proven powerfully successful. When people with criminal records have the opportunity to interact with an employer, they are six times more likely to be selected to move forward to the next stage of the application process. This legislation will not only help people with criminal records obtain employment, but also help employers follow the Civil Rights Act and encourage best practices that ensure the hiring of the highest qualified applicants.
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