When hiring for the corporate office, he vets candidates himself, which includes an in-depth interview and personality test. Two of the people with felony convictions that he has hired have become franchise owners. Some high-profiles programs and initiatives have been created to encourage employers to give people with criminal records another chance.
In , the Fair Chance Pledge encouraged companies and higher education institutions to support people with previous convictions. The website has information that addresses common concerns, such as interviewing and screening guidance, risk management, and support.
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Programs and pledges are one thing. Getting people with convictions back to work is another. After Cheri Garcia was arrested several times for drug-related offenses, she got clean. In , she founded Cornbread Hustle , a staffing agency for second-chancers. Garcia uses her growing network to find the best possible jobs for her clients and says that she sees attitudes changing, especially since Kim Kardashian began her high-profile prison reform lobbying efforts. Garcia, who has placed former inmates in jobs ranging from manual labor to a high-level IT post at a medical startup, says that companies need to provide support for these employees and focus on engagement.
If not, it can be tough to keep them.
Cornbread Hustle has moved its location from a co-working space to a renovated church that provides a place for its candidates to spend time and get support. Many are in recovery from substance abuse or other issues and need that sense of community, she says. For example, at Total Wine and More, a 5,employee national beverage chain, job turnover for several job categories was significantly lower for employees with a criminal record than those without, according to the company.
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For cashiers, the rate was 14 percent lower. The researchers at Northwestern University say more research is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn, but many of the employers that have already moved towards a comprehensive felon-friendly strategy contend the benefits of this practice may far outweigh any risks associated with it. Consider that the Brennan Center for Justice estimates that 70 million Americans have a criminal record, including 20 million with felony convictions.
Or, as the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports, 95 percent of prisoners in state prisons will be released at some point. Collectively, these organizations employ more than 5 million workers. Banning the box generally means not determining whether a job applicant has a felony conviction until after the first round of elimination.
At Koch Industries, all job candidate finalists are subject to a background check, says Mark Holden, general counsel of the ,employee Wichita, Kan. When applicants know that a background check will be performed, they typically will bring the subject up during the interview, says Holden. The result is an automatic felony conviction, he adds.
While felony drug convictions are the most typical crimes that turn up in criminal background checks, other, potentially more problematic felonies are revealed as well. But even an aggravated assault conviction would not necessarily be a disqualifier for hiring, says Holden. While keeping Koch employees safe is at the top of the priority list, the company also looks into the details of an assault conviction. Or did the guy pound his boss into a coma?
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The company is small, with only about employees. Roshi Bernie Glassman, a Zen master with a Ph. The system is simple: Prospective employees put their name on a waiting list, and when a job opening occurs, whoever is at the top of the list is hired, no questions asked — except when completing an I-9 form. While this approach might not fit the needs of most traditional employers, the results could still hold lessons for prospective felony-friendly companies.
Most new hires, however, do make it through the program, with the number of employees not completing the apprenticeship in the single-digit range.
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But rather than taking on that support role itself, Greyston has linked up with a local nonprofit organization to work with employees and connect them with suitable resources. Building and sustaining a felon-friendly or at least felon-neutral workforce posture in larger and more complex organizations involves several steps.
The most basic is establishing a formal policy and procedures. While it might not be practical or legally prudent to try to enumerate detailed criteria for hiring felons, it is a good idea to have a formal assessment process in place, notes Andria Ryan, a partner in the Atlanta office of Fisher Phillips. Ryan suggests that employers might want to set up a committee with HR, recruiting, a loss prevention and security specialist, as well as someone with a feel for the dangers of a particular job, to provide more insight on a possible hiring decision.
Legal counsel often will be part of the mix, she adds. Hiring managers need to gain a comfort level with asking prospective employees direct and specific questions about their felony convictions — including the circumstances, subsequent efforts put forth to make amends and how the individual thinks about the crime today. While posing such questions might be awkward for the employer, chances are the felon will be more comfortable, typically having been through the process multiple times already. First, it helps to rebut an employment discrimination charge of blanket rejection of felons. Second, if it is buttressed by a thorough background check, it can also beat back a negligent hiring suit, should the employee harm anyone at the workplace.
Once a felon has been hired, experts say HR needs be especially careful not to view the employee though the lens of a felony conviction, thereby detracting from a more holistic view of the individual. Meanwhile, the same Northwestern University study that hints at possible superior job performance by felons drew another tentative conclusion that sheds further light on the practice of hiring felons.
The researchers found that, for certain kinds of jobs, such as sales positions, standard psychometric testing methods that are commonly used for hiring might be a better predictor of employee performance than criminal records. Everyone, it seems, has a hard time staying away from shiny new toys these days. When it comes to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, the pull seems to be exceptionally strong.
Undeniably, those impressive tech tools are making serious progress in so many ways, including mastering complex games like chess and poker versus humans. Yet, as a couple of recent newsworthy cautionary tales demonstrate, AI and ML are far from a panacea.
In fact, what buyers are promised and what they receive may not quite be in sync. In the first case, a recent report in the New York Times focused on a well-funded Silicon Valley start-up, One Concern, that promised its AI-based platform could be used to pinpoint exactly where people in need of help could be located during disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes. On paper, it sounded great, and the company scored some serious investment dollars and new clients.
Problem was, when users gave it a whirl, the results fell short. Not good when you are trying to save lives.