How Continuous Monitoring Can Lower Employment Barriers

Employment Obstacles for Americans with Criminal Histories

More than 77 million Americans—one in three adults—has a criminal record, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Americans with criminal records face numerous obstacles in finding work. The reasons for this are far-reaching. Individuals with criminal records tend to be less educated and have “résumé gaps” during their period(s) of incarceration. Some jobs have federal or state restrictions against hiring individuals with certain criminal convictions (e.g., nurses and school teachers).

All told, applicants with a conviction on their criminal record are 50% less likely to be called back for an interview. Crucially, the inability to find steady, meaningful work is a major contributor to high recidivism rates in the U.S.

Few people argue against the importance of background checks, but a growing number of professionals are advocating for proactive, “fair-chance” hiring practices that provide improved employment opportunities for Americans with criminal records.

The impacts of this decreased employability are tremendous:

  • Between $78 and $87 billion in lost GDP, annually (source)
  • Between 0.9% and 1% of the U.S. unemployment rate can be interpreted as an employment penalty faced by Americans with a criminal record (source)

In response to the U.S.’s unusually high incarceration rate, many consumer advocates are calling for processes that improve the employment outlook for the previously incarcerated population.  The fair-chance hiring movement is an unofficial nationwide campaign that aims to achieve this goal and create more employment opportunities for people with criminal histories.

Ban the Box

Over the last five years, the fair-chance hiring movement has rallied around the “Ban the Box” cause. According to the organizers, Ban the Box aims to “remove the question and check box, ‘have you ever been convicted by a court?’ from applications for employment, housing, public benefits, insurance, loans and other services.”

While the provisions for municipal and state laws vary drastically, they each address the employment application question which asks the candidate at the initial stage of the hiring process to disclose whether they have been convicted of criminal activity. Advocates of Ban the Box want this question eliminated.

This map shows ban the box laws by state

Removing the question does not prohibit the employer from running a background check on the candidate; generally, background checks happen later in the hiring process. Instead, it aims to ensure managers consider the quality of an applicant before learning of or considering their criminal history.

Ban the Box proponents argue that hiring practices are too restrictive for the tens of millions of Americans with a criminal history. Acknowledging the leeway that companies have in hiring recently incarcerated Americans and the economic and social ramifications of the issue, more Americans are looking to companies to be more proactive on the issue.

Finding Balance Between Opportunity and Safety

Businesses today are receiving pressure regarding their background check policies from two separate directions:

  1. Many fair-chance hiring advocates argue that companies need to adjust their pre-hire policies and hire more individuals with a criminal record.
  2. Companies continue to face litigation and public scrutiny for not conducting thorough enough background checks which could have revealed information that would have affected their hiring decision. One recent story faulted a company for not catching a theft conviction during a rogue employee’s pre-hire background screen.

Companies know and acknowledge the need for a larger talent pool. For the first time ever, there are more open jobs than there are unemployed Americans. However, these companies still have a mandate to keep their customers and employees safe.

Businesses must effectively balance the benefits of lowering employment barriers and widening the available talent pool with the reality of workforce risk.

Can Continuous Criminal Monitoring Enable Fair-Chance Hiring?

Recently, companies have started looking beyond pre-hire background screens to solutions that help mitigate post-hire risk. For instance, continuous criminal monitoring alerts employers in near real-time of criminal activity among their workforce. Previously, this knowledge was a blind spot for organizations. At a minimum, companies who “rescreened” their workforce periodically could uncover post-hire convictions at the time of the rescreen. However, rescreening does not have large or consistent industry adoption.

Post-hire monitoring can also help lower employment barriers and support the fair-chance hiring movement.

Instead, more companies are turning to monitoring solutions that provide alerts on potential criminal activity. At its core, post-hire monitoring solves the same problems as a traditional background screen: reduced risk of workplace violence, insider theft, litigation, and brand damage.

Post-hire monitoring can also help lower employment barriers and support the fair-chance hiring movement.

Eliminating “No Exception” Policies

Many organizations have “no exception” rules that prohibit employment for individuals convicted of certain crimes. It’s common for this list to include serious offenses like murder or assault. Frequently, less serious crimes make this list, too, if they are relevant to the position.

For example, many retailers will not hire employees with a conviction for a crime involving theft or dishonesty, regardless of when the conviction occurred. With a continuous monitoring program in place, retailers could exempt similar crimes that took place more than years ago. This combination would open up the talent pool for new employees but give the employer peace of mind about future insider theft risk.

Reducing Time Limits on Criminal Conviction

Hiring standards vary widely within the trucking industry. Few companies have “no exception” policies for driving while intoxicated (DWI) convictions, but all have a set policy in place. These range from as stringent as allowing one personal vehicle DWI within the applicant’s lifetime to no personal or commercial DWI within the last five years.

By implementing a continuous monitoring program, trucking companies could reduce their time restrictions on DWI convictions. Because drivers are monitored in real time for incarceration events, employers are more comfortable reducing their time restrictions on job candidates’ DWI convictions.

This model could also be followed by any organization who follows strict time requirements on historical criminal activity.

Conclusion

Regardless of an organization’s position, accurate and timely risk signals give companies more data on which to base any changes in hiring practice. Continuous criminal monitoring provides companies the information they need to achieve the goals of both risk management and fair chance hiring.

There’s no one-sized-fits-all solution, and companies must be thoughtful and thorough when making any policy changes.

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Continuous Monitoring: Post Hire Innovations that Drive Revenue Growth

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Brittany Adams, Partner Success Manager

Author

Brittany Adams, Partner Success Manager

Brittany Adams has more than a decade of experience working in the background screening industry. As a partner success manager at Appriss, she works closely with CRAs that leverage Appriss’ data solutions to bolster their product offerings. She brings deep industry experience and a unique perspective to the Appriss team.  In addition to her role at Appriss, Brittany leads Wellcome Home Kids, a charity she founded to serve families with recovering organ transplant children. Brittany lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two kids.

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