Helping Individuals with criminal records Reenter through Employment

National HIRE Network Issues Report

National groups advocating for civil rights and workers’ rights released a guide for employers to limit use of criminal history in order to avoid unlawful discrimination in hiring applicants for new jobs. The National H.I.R.E. Network, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the National Workrights Institute prepared the guide, "Best Practice Standards: The Proper Use of Criminal Records in Hiring,” in consultation with prominent leaders of the background screening industry. The publication was released in May 2013 and was the subject of a conference hosted at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York in October 2013 that brought together employers, human resource and management representatives, commercial reporting agencies, attorneys, workforce professionals, and civil and human rights agency representatives to reconcile the needs and goals of employers and job seekers by promoting the adoption of the authors' Best Practice Standards on the proper use of criminal record information in making employment decisions as outlined in the report. We've since hosted meetings in Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles. To read the full report, please click here

The widespread use of prior criminal convictions in screening and disqualifying job applicants has been challenged for years by civil and workers’ rights organizations because of the severe impact conviction history can have, often permanently, on the ability of qualified minority workers to find employment. Last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) adopted an Enforcement Guidance on the Use of Arrest and Conviction Records, which described general practices employers could follow in their efforts to comply with the non-discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In that Guidance the EEOC noted that while less than 6 percent of white men will be imprisoned in their lifetime, over 17 percent of Latino men and over 30 percent of African American men will serve a prison term.

The Best Practices Standards are described as “concrete, practical procedures that will help employers make hiring decisions that comply with the EEOC Guidance, maximize productivity, and minimize the risk of liability either from violating Title VII or from hiring an unfit employee.” Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Barbara Arnwine, observed, “The Lawyers’ Committee has been contacted by workers who have been denied jobs because of criminal convictions 10, 15, 25, or 30 years ago, even though they have maintained clean records for the last 10 or 20 years. Employers need to stop excluding applicants because of old convictions that tell them nothing about the contribution that this job seeker can offer their companies today, convictions that are so old no trial court would consider the conviction relevant to the applicant’s truthfulness or character.”.

Roberta Meyers, director of the National H.I.R.E. Network, which has fought over the past ten years to level the playing field for the millions of individuals who have criminal convictions by reforming local, state, and federal policies that keep qualified workers from competing for jobs noted, “Employers constantly tell us that they need practical guidelines to help in their hiring procedures. These Best Practice Standards will be a major resource for employers who are seeking tools to help them with these decisions when a job applicant has a conviction record.”.

Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, noted that, “Employers and consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) want to treat applicants with criminal records fairly, but aren’t sure how to do it. Title VII, Fair Credit Reporting Act, negligent hiring, and state statues impose complex requirements that are sometimes in tension. Many important issues aren’t governed by any law. These Best Practices are designed to give employers and CRAs the guidance they need.”.

Consultants from the background screening industry who helped develop the Best Practice Standards included Lester Rosen, the first chair of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and the author of two books for employers on screening job applicants, and Fred Giles and James Owens, of Carcogroup, which provides employers a variety of employee selection services, including background screening.