“Around 70 million Americans have some sort of criminal record … Now, a lot of time, that record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society — even if you’ve already paid your debt to society. It means millions of Americans have difficulty even getting their foot in the door to try to get a job much less actually hang on to that job. That’s bad for not only those individuals, it’s bad for our economy. It’s bad for the communities that desperately need more role models who are gainfully employed. So we’ve got to make sure Americans who’ve paid their debt to society can earn their second chance.”
In response to this epidemic, the Obama Administration created The Fair Chance Business Pledge. Many of the largest companies in the United States embraced the pledge and committed to making their hiring practices more inclusive for applicants with a criminal history.
Early adopters of the Fair Chance Business Pledge
Companies that have adopted the Fair Chance Business Pledge and have taken steps to provide felons with job opportunities initially included:
- American Airlines
- Coca-Cola Company
- Greyston Bakery
- The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System
- Koch Industries
- Georgia Pacific
- Libra Group
- Pepsi Co
- Prudential Financial
- Under Armour
- Plank Industries
Companies and organizations interested in joining the Fair Chance Business Pledge can do so by signing up HERE.
The Fair Chance Business Pledge
“We applaud the growing number of public and private sector organizations nationwide who are taking action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. When almost 70 million Americans — nearly one in three adults — have a criminal record, it is important to remove unnecessary barriers that may prevent these individuals from gaining access to employment, training, education and other basic tools required for success in life.
We are committed to providing individuals with criminal records, including formerly incarcerated individuals, a fair chance to participate in the American economy.”
Advantages of Fair Chances for Employers
With a tight labor pool and issues with retention of good employees, organizations are finding it necessary to expand their applicant pools. Employers are finding that there are advantages to hiring ex-felons.
Unilever comments that, “Business can only truly flourish in societies and economies where human rights are respected and upheld.” As one of the first companies to adopt the ban the box policy, they no longer ask applicants to declare their criminal record prior to being interviewed. They have decided that they will not conduct criminal background checks until a contingent offer has been made to an applicant. This does not ensure hiring of all felons but it does allow them to work through the process based upon their merit.
Prudential has made a commitment to inclusive hiring practices. Additionally, they have invested nearly $50 million to support businesses and organizations who have demonstrated a commitment to inclusive hiring practices. These practices include assisting individuals with criminal backgrounds through workforce training, occupational skills training and workplace soft skills training, so that they can successfully re-enter the workforce.
Greyston Bakery spokesperson, Jonathan Halperin, shares the company vision for open hiring policies. “We create job opportunities for everyone who’s willing to work, regardless of their background, regardless of their prior criminal record. That model creates an opportunity for people who have often been excluded to become a part of the mainstream fabric of economic and cultural life in this country.” Greyston invests in opportunities through open hiring policies, on the job training and even daycare services for employees. FreeEnterprise.com has made a video to showcase how this small business is making a big difference:
What can organizations do to support Fair Chances?
The Fair Chance Business Pledge includes a commitment to adopting inclusive hiring practices which start with:
- Banning the Box by delaying criminal history questions until later in the hiring process;
- Training human resources staff on making fair decisions regarding applicants with criminal records;
- Ensuring internships and job training are available to individuals with criminal records;
- Using reliable background check providers to help ensure accuracy;
- Hosting a Fair Chance and Opportunity Job Fair
Daniel Yanisse, founder of tech company Checkr, has found success working with ex-felons and is assisting companies such as DoorDash and Crisis Text Line to replicate the process. They have found that adjusting screening processes to be inline with Equal Employment Opportunity recommendations for considering nature and gravity of crimes as well as whether they apply to the work to be performed. Yanisse and counterparts typically starts the ex-offender in a temporary work program, where he or she serves in a paid, internship-like job, while management evaluates performance. Business leaders face unique challenges in the market place, finding good employees by opening their hiring practices can lead to positive results.