Low Unemployment Makes Employers More Willing to Hire Ex-Offenders with Criminal Records in 2019

ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2019

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

With record low unemployment, employers should be more willing to hire ex-offenders with the necessary skills to make sure they are not eliminating job applicants with past criminal records who are qualified to work in 2019. This trend has been chosen by global background check provider Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) as third on the list of “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2019.

Ex-offenders face many hurdles after leaving prison to re-enter society that include finding a job. In July of 2018, the Prison Policy Initiative released a report entitled “Out of Prison & Out of Work” that calculated the ex-offender unemployment rate to be 27 percent, meaning one out of four could not find work, which surpassed the 25 percent unemployment rate Americans faced during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The report also revealed ex-offenders were more likely to want to find work than the average American and that ex-offender unemployment was highest soon after release from prison. Ex-offenders had an unemployment rate of 31.6 percent less than two years after release from prison, 21.1 percent two to three years after release from prison, and 13.6 percent four or more years after release from prison.

However, with the demand for workers rising in the United States due to record low unemployment rates, companies in America are being forced “to consider workers they once would have turned away” such as ex-offenders and to provide “opportunities to people who have long faced barriers to employment, such as criminal records,” according to a report from The New York Times.

The Times reported that in one Wisconsin county – where the unemployment rate was 2 percent in November 2017 – “demand for workers has grown so intense that manufacturers are taking their recruiting a step further: hiring inmates at full wages to work in factories even while they serve their prison sentences.” Other states with inmate programs saw demand for their workers rise sharply.

The fact that employers cannot find workers due to the current labor shortage has caused them to turn to an untapped and underutilized source of labor, ex-offenders and inmates from the approximately 20 million Americans who have been convicted of a felony. For example, an employer in Las Vegas, Nevada discovered his best worker was an inmate from a work-release facility, The Washington Post reported.

But are ex-offenders good workers? A study released in May of 2017 entitled “Criminal Background and Job Performance” indicated that “individuals with criminal records have a longer tenure and are less likely to quit their jobs voluntarily than other workers.” The results differed by the job as ex-offenders who worked in customer service were less likely to quit than ex-offenders who worked in sales.

In November of 2018, the Center for American Progress (CAP) – an independent nonpartisan policy institute dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans – announced the launching of a national bipartisan Clean Slate Campaign to automate the clearing of criminal records for reformed ex-offenders. The CAP estimates 70 million to 100 million Americans – or 1 in 3 – have some type of criminal record.

With surveys revealing 9 in 10 employers perform background checks, any criminal record – no matter how old or minor – can be a life sentence to poverty. “A criminal record shouldn’t be a life sentence to poverty,” Neera Tanden, president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CAP, stated in a press release. “CAP is excited to see momentum for clean slate automatic record-clearing laws spread to states across the country.”

Also in November of 2018, voters in Florida approved Amendment 4 with almost 65 percent of the vote that would automatically restore voting rights to approximately 1.2 million convicted ex-offenders in the state. The measure restores voting rights to ex-offenders who “have had to wait five years after completing their sentence to even apply to have their voting rights restored” in the past seven years.

Should ex-offenders seeking work let potential employers know upfront if they have a criminal record? ESR founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen – the author of “The Safe Hiring Manual” – wrote an article that answered Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) by ex-offenders looking for work. Rosen explained that whether or not to tell employers about a criminal record is a real “Catch-22” for ex-offenders.

Rosen said that if ex-offenders do not mention a criminal record and the employer finds out about it on their own, they may treat them as dishonest people and not consider them for employment. Conversely, if ex-offenders follow the “honesty is the best policy” and self-report a criminal record to employers, they may not even have the chance to show their knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the job.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a background check firm headquartered in the San Francisco, California area – protects employers while promoting ex-offenders re-entering the workforce by helping “employers navigate the complex regulations around compliance and privacy laws, while providing resources and advocacy in helping ex-offenders find work,” according to a blog on BadCredit.org.

ESR Vice President of Strategic Growth Dawn Standerwick – who brings over 25 years of experience in all facets of workforce screening – told BadCredit.org about her company’s ongoing efforts to help ex-offenders rejoin the workforce and become contributors to society. ESR helps ensure employers comply with legal protections afforded ex-offenders while also providing screening to keep workplaces safe.

ESR ensures employers are compliant with state, local, and federal background screening laws. “But employers are struggling with compliance because different jurisdictions have different requirements,” Standerwick told BadCredit.org. “We help them with compliant processes providing accurate background information about these individuals within the scope of the various laws.”

ESR balances assuring a safe workplace with rights of ex-offenders to work by complying with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on criminal records and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), as well as state or local laws that may conflict with federal laws. “There is a patchwork of laws that employers have to follow depending on where they are in the country,” Standerwick said.

“We want to make sure that the spirit of what those laws were intended to do is followed and that the people who are just trying to get a job are protected,” she said. “ESR’s Assured Compliance ensures employers are following the laws and is intended to help individuals who have a criminal record get back into the workforce. No one wants to create an entire segment of the population that can’t work.”

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) also offers award winning technology to employers. ESR won the 2018 TekTonic Award from HRO Today Magazine that recognizes innovation and disruption in the world of Human Resources (HR) and recruiting technology for the ESR Assured Compliance® system that helps organizations mitigate risk while remaining in compliance with a myriad of screening laws.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – also offers an Ex-Offender Resources Page that includes a complimentary white paper entitled “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce” on how applicants with criminal records looking for work can find a job. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com/Applicant-Support-Center/Ex-Offender-Resources/.

Starting in 2008, Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) has selected background check trends that have impacted the future of the background screening industry. Each trend will be revealed on the ESR News Blog and also listed on the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” web page which is available at www.esrcheck.com/Tools-Resources/ESR-Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends/.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), undergoes annual SOC 2® Type 2 audits, was named to 2018 HRO Today Magazine Baker’s Dozen for Top Pre-Employment Screening Service, and won the 2018 HRO Today Tektonic Award for innovative and disruptive background screening technology. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com.

ESR Webinar on Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2019

ESR founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen – a noted background check expert and author of “The Safe Hiring Manual” – will also host a live complimentary webinar entitled “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2019” that will take place on Wednesday, January 30, 2019, from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM Noon Pacific Time. To register, visit https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5840930517922184451.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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