Are you considering hiring felons? For some organizations, the thought of hiring ex-convicts is frightening. Employers may worry about a number of different factors:
- The safety and well-being of other employees and customers
- Theft, fraud, and other crimes that might be committed in the workplace
- Damage to the reputation of the business or how the brand is perceived
- Other workers creating a hostile environment for the new hire
- General concerns about liability
These concerns are no doubt valid in some situations. However, many organizations find that due diligence and common sense is a good solution. You can find the middle ground in determining whether to hire someone who has a record. Obviously, a bank probably won’t hire someone who has been convicted of grand larceny. But there are many jobs in which a criminal conviction wouldn’t necessarily prevent a person from being a viable candidate. And there’s a very good reason not to simply write off any candidate who has a blip on their background check…
When Refusing to Hire Former Felons Might Be Against the Law
It’s well-known that the criminal justice system prosecutes a disproportionate percentage of minorities. According to statistics compiled by AmericanProgress.org, people of color make up 30% of the population. But they represent 60% of the prison population. Simply having a blanket policy of never hiring anyone with a checkered past might be interpreted as discriminating on the basis of race. Looking at past convictions on a case-by-case basis is an established best practice. It’s most likely to align with EEOC guidelines.
For many employers, it makes sense to take into consideration:
- The nature of the crime (for example, a violent crime vs. one that was non-violent)
- How much time elapsed (for example, a young offender with a recent conviction vs. an older person who committed a crime a decade ago)
- The nature of the job (for example, a person with a history of sexual misconduct would not be an appropriate job candidate for working at a school)
Many Top Companies Routinely Hire Felons
This may come as a surprise. But many service and hospitality business aren’t shy about hiring ex-convicts to serve the needs of their customers. Jobsthathirefelons.org has a long list of companies that are household names. The list includes
- Bed, Bath & Beyond
- Ace Hardware
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Buffalo Wild Wings
- Hilton Hotels
Obviously, these major national and international chains wouldn’t be hiring ex-convicts if it was a serious liability issue for them to do so.
Employers can reduce the risks associated with hiring people who check the “felon” box on an application. They can do so by participating in a bonding program. For example, the US Department of Labor offers a Federal Bonding Program (FPB). It helps insure employers against losses from employee dishonesty. This program is free of charge to employers. It can apply to full-time, part-time, or temp agency workers in any job in any state. Coverage starts at $5000 (there is no deductible). It covers the worker’s first six months of employment. It’s a reasonable and simple way to reduce risk if the theft of money or property is a concern because of a worker’s criminal past.
Are You Considering Hiring Felons? There Are Some Benefits
The most obvious benefit of hiring someone who would have trouble getting work elsewhere is that they have every reason to be loyal and grateful. If they are on probation, they have a high level of accountability to maintain for their parole officer. Also, they will have their work attendance and abstention from drug use monitored.
One of the surprising perks available to employers who give ex-cons a second chance is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program (WOTC). This tax credit can be a couple of thousand dollars per ex-felon hired. There is no limit to the number of workers who can qualify an employer to receive the credit. This means a company that routinely hires, trains, and retains former convicts has the opportunity to enjoy a very significant tax incentive.
Get the Most Out of Your Hiring Decisions
Only your organization can determine if hiring ex-felons is the right choice. We recommend seeking legal counsel on this complex topic to create smart and fair policies. But you should know that there are also many other groups that qualify for WOTC. This includes veterans, persons with disabilities, and families that are receiving financial assistance. At Efficient Hire, we’ve streamlined and automated the process of applying for these tax credits to make it as easy as possible. That’s why we recommend making WOTC part of your standard forms completion process if you want to capture credits to save your business money! Learn more about our solution here.