Benefits to Hiring Ex-Convicts

In yesterday’s Advisor, we outlined some of the perceived risks involved for employers who opt to hire ex-convicts. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the potential benefits.

There are a lot of potential benefits for employers who consider hiring someone with a previous conviction:

  • The hiring can become evidence of nondiscriminatory practices. A blanket ban on hiring someone with a previous conviction may be unlawful because doing so will likely exclude some protected classes more than others and could be deemed discriminatory due to the disparate impact. But opting to review these situations and to hire some of them shows that you do not have such a discriminatory practice.
  • The organization could qualify for a tax credit. Per the DOL website, “the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment.”[i] (One of the target groups is ex-felons.)
  • The organization could be helping someone in the local community get a new start. This not only helps the individual, but it can also have an impact in reducing crime in the community. Having a good job can be a great reason to not reoffend. Of those who were previously convicted and ended up reoffending, the vast majority were unemployed.
  • Being open to hiring those with previous convictions may greatly expand the applicant pool. There are tens of millions of people in the United States with a prior conviction, which means there’s a large pool of talent for employers to consider. This fact is especially relevant in times where unemployment rates are low and employers are not getting a lot of applicants for a given vacancy.
  • These new hires may have higher productivity levels. Ex-felons are often found to be an incredibly hardworking group, as they recognize that their opportunities are not as plentiful and are therefore more grateful for the chance to excel with an employer.
  • The organization may experience less turnover from these individuals. Since not all employers are willing or able to hire former offenders, those who get hired are unlikely to quit on a whim, given that their job prospects are more limited. Additionally, some people in this group are required to maintain gainful employment as part of the conditions of their release. They are also more likely to be monitored for drugs as part of their release as well. (Of course, this is on a case-by-case basis and does not apply to everyone who was formerly convicted of a crime.)
  • There may be additional government incentives. Check at the state level to see if there are tax credits, wage reimbursement, or training funds available to you.
  • They may bring great skills to the organization. Some prisons offer job training programs, which could mean your job training has already been handled or that the individual brings a specialized skill set.

Remember: it’s reasonable to disqualify someone who has a conviction that is recent and is directly related to the job at hand, but it perhaps is not reasonable to automatically disqualify others who don’t pose an obvious risk. And there may be a whole host of benefits to making that hiring decision.


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