Would You Consider Hiring an Ex-Convict?

Would your organization consider hiring someone who has a criminal record?

Many employers are realizing that it’s probably inappropriate and even counter-productive to have a blanket ban on hiring anyone who has ever been convicted of a crime. After all, many crimes have nothing to do with someone’s ability to perform the job at hand. And by default, having a blanket policy will exclude anyone who was previously convicted but is no longer someone who would commit a crime again.

It may even be unlawful to have such a blanket policy, since refusing to consider applicants on a case-by-case basis will likely exclude some protected classes more than others and could be deemed discriminatory due to the disparate impact.

Additionally, by not even considering these individuals, the organization would be missing out on individuals whose convictions were so minor as to have no impact on their performance in any way, not then or now.

Perceived Risk When Hiring Ex-Convicts

Some employers are wary that hiring someone with a previous conviction would pose too high of a risk for everyone. They’re worried that there may be a future “negligent hiring” claim if they hire someone with a criminal conviction in their background who later causes a problem in the workplace. A negligent hiring claim is no laughing matter, especially since employers do have an obligation to try to maintain a safe working environment.

While this is a fair concern, the main thing employers need to understand is that not all former offenders actually present a risk. For example:

  • Some of them had a history of criminal activity that is so long in the past they’re no longer any higher risk than anyone else.
  • Others may have had a more recent conviction, but it may have nothing to do with the job or with the safety of others.
  • Still others may be a great fit for some roles where the risk is minimal anyway.

While it’s reasonable to want to keep the workplace safe, it’s also reasonable to make a true assessment of the risk before disqualifying someone automatically. This idea is the genesis of the “ban the box” laws—employers should not be asking about criminal history too early in the process, and they should not automatically disqualify individuals without assessing the specifics of their situation. If employers at least take the time to make a reasoned decision for anyone who had a previous conviction, it should result in more ex-convicts getting jobs.

For employers worried about the risk of theft involved when hiring an ex-convict, consider this: there is a government-funded bond to cover the risk for the initial months of employment, and it’s available for free[i]. This is administered by the Employment & Training Administration, which is part of the Department of Labor (DOL). That said, it’s also useful to remember that studies have shown that after some time has passed (7–10 years), former offenders don’t pose a greater risk than anyone else.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll outline some of the potential benefits to hiring ex-convicts.


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