Category Archives: Employment Screening

A Healthcare Employer Guide to Hiring People with Arrest and Conviction Records: Seizing the Opportunity to Tap a Large, Diverse Workforce

Source: Sodiqa Williams, Safer Foundation and National Employment Law Project (NELP), September 2016

….As the healthcare industry continues to grow, employers have an opportunity to launch innovative workforce development strategies to assure a diversified pipeline of qualified healthcare workers. Businesses of all sizes and types come and go in the communities they serve. However, healthcare organizations help keep many communities afloat and steady, even in hard financial and uncertain times. Adopting a hiring policy for people with records can help you achieve your business objectives while advancing your mission to serve the public. Consult this toolkit for guidance on implementing a hiring program for people with records. Several healthcare providers and trainers featured in the toolkit are at the forefront of a movement to invest in workforces in underserved communities. We can all learn from their experiences in developing policies and practices that work. With the guidance provided in the toolkit, you can be proactive in recruiting people with records from your community…..
Ensuring People With Convictions Have a Fair Chance to Work
Source: National Employment Law Project (NELP)

An estimated 70 million people in the United States—nearly one in three adults—have a prior arrest or conviction record. A racially biased criminal justice system and mass incarceration have severely impacted communities of color. A conviction in one’s past shouldn’t be a life sentence to joblessness. NELP is working to expand fair-chance hiring laws to every corner of the nation, because everyone deserves an opportunity to work for a better life.

Racial Profiling in Hiring: A Critique of New “Ban the Box” Studies

Source: Maurice Emsellem, Beth Avery, Policy Brief, August 11, 2016

From the summary:
Two recent studies claim that “ban the box” policies enacted around the country detrimentally affect the employment of young men of color who do not have a conviction record. One of the authors has boldly argued that the policy should be abandoned outright because it “does more harm than good.” It’s the wrong conclusion. The nation cannot afford to turn back the clock on a decade of reform that has created significant job opportunities for people with records. These studies require exacting scrutiny to ensure that they are not irresponsibly seized upon at a critical time when the nation is being challenged to confront its painful legacy of structural discrimination and criminalization of people of color.

Our review of the studies leads us to these top-line conclusions: (1) The core problem raised by the studies is not ban-the-box but entrenched racism in the hiring process, which manifests as racial profiling of African Americans as “criminals.” (2) Ban-the-box is working, both by increasing employment opportunities for people with records and by changing employer attitudes toward hiring people with records. (3) When closely scrutinized, the new studies do not support the conclusion that ban-the-box policies are responsible for the depressed hiring of African Americans. (4) The studies highlight the need for a more robust policy response to both boost job opportunities for people with records and tackle race discrimination in the hiring process—not a repeal of ban-the-box laws. ….

…..In recent months, two studies evaluating the impact of ban-the-box policies have been released—both making the controversial claim that the policies have a detrimental impact on young African-American men. One of the researchers concludes that the policy should be abandoned because it “does more harm than good.” The two studies at issue were authored by Amanda Agan and Sonja Starr (“Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment”) and Jennifer Doleac and Benjamin Hansen (“Does Ban the Box Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Records Are Hidden”).4 A third recently released study by Daniel Shoag and Stan Veuger (“No Woman, No Crime: Ban the Box, Employment, and Upskilling”) presents a range of findings on the impact of ban-the-box policies in geographic areas with high crime rates…..
Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment
Source: Amanda Agan & Sonja Starr, University of Michigan Law & Economics Research Paper, No. 16-012, June 14, 2016

Does Ban the Box Help or Hurt Low-Skilled Workers? Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Records Are Hidden
Source: Jennifer Doleac & Benjamin Hansen, July 2016

No Woman, No Crime: Ban the Box, Employment, and Upskilling
Source: Daniel Shoag & Stan Veuger, American Enterprise Institute, AEI Economics Working Paper, 2016-08, May 25, 2016

Ban the Box and Perverse Consequences, Part III

Source: Noah Zatz, OnLabor blog, August 4, 2016

This is the final post in a three-part series.

This is the last in a series of three posts on the prominent perverse consequences argument against “Banning the Box.” The argument is that efforts to curtail employer exclusion of people with criminal records inadvertently exacerbate the racial inequality they purport to redress. The first post argued that Ban the Box should not be blamed for an effect rooted in employers’ racial stereotyping; the second criticized the perverse consequences argument for using the wrong conception of racial equality. This one criticizes it for ignoring cumulative effects when identifying and comparing racial harm.

Overqualified: Changing the Culture of Hiring Practices in a Public Library Special Collections Department

Source: Eddie Woodward, Public Library Quarterly, Volume 35, Issue 2, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
All too often, applicants for low level paraprofessional positions in libraries are passed over or rejected, not because they are not qualified, but because they have professional experience or advanced degrees. The rationale behind these decisions is that the overqualified staff member in a low level position will continue to look for a better position more aligned with their skills, experience, and education; and when they find another job they will leave and their positions will have to be filled again. This essay argues that this reasoning is flawed and, regardless of the perceived inconvenience, library managers and administrators should want the best and the brightest working in all levels of their library.

Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Statistical Discrimination: A Field Experiment

Source: Amanda Agan, Sonja Starr, Princeton University, Industrial Relations Section Working Paper #598, July 2016

“Ban-the-Box” (BTB) policies restrict employers from asking about applicants’ criminal histories on job applications and are often presented as a means of reducing unemployment among black men, who disproportionately have criminal records. However, withholding information about criminal records could risk encouraging statistical discrimination: employers may make assumptions about criminality based on the applicant’s race or other observable characteristics. To investigate this possibility as well as the effects of race and criminal records on employer callback rates, we sent approximately 15,000 fictitious online job applications to employers in New Jersey and New York City, before and after each jurisdiction’s adoption of BTB policies. Our causal effect estimates are based on a triple-differences design, which exploits the fact that many businesses’ applications did not ask about records even before BTB and were thus unaffected by the law. Our results confirm that criminal records are a major barrier to employment, but they also support the concern that BTB policies encourage statistical discrimination on the basis of race. Overall, white applicants received 23% more callbacks than similar black applicants and employers that ask about criminal records are 62% more likely to call back an applicant if he has no record. However, we find that the race gap in callbacks grows dramatically at the BTB-affected companies after the policy goes into effect. Before BTB, white applicants to BTB-affected employers received about 7% more callbacks than similar black applicants, but BTB increases this gap to 45%.

Ban the Box: Protecting Employer Rights While Improving Opportunities for Ex-offender Job Seekers

Source: C. W. Von Bergen and Martin S. Bressler, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 42 no. 1, Summer 2016
(subscription required)

A number of state and local jurisdictions, and more recently federal officials, have initiated statutes aimed at minimizing the obstacles encountered by ex-offenders in securing employment. Such policies, often referred to as “Ban the Box” legislation, attempt to ameliorate the deleterious effect that criminal history screening often has on such individuals’ ability to secure employment. The “box” in Ban the Box refers to the question on many employment applications asking if the job applicant has a criminal conviction. Such ordinances are focused at the point of the application process, only allowing potential employers to query individuals seeking employment about their convictions when they obtain an offer of conditional employment or when they reach the ranks of final consideration. Even then, it is a typical requirement that potential employers link necessity of a criminal screening with the nature of the job. This article discusses Ban the Box, its history, the risks these laws pose to employers, and strategies for firm compliance.

How We Move Beyond Dallas

Source: Spencer Overton & Kami Chavis, American Prospect, July 13, 2016

Calls for healing and reconciliation in the wake of recent racial violence overlook the substantive, concrete steps that experts say would help forestall the next police tragedy. …

….There are solutions. Research shows that the media and popular culture have perpetuated the harmful stereotypes that correlate blackness with dangerousness—but that they can also be powerful forces in correcting those stereotypes and decreasing implicit biases. In the meantime, departments can assess implicit bias in new recruits and in current officers, and can train police to mitigate it. They can also provide officers training in de-escalation tactics. Departments can improve police-community relations through community satisfaction surveys, civilian review boards, body cameras, and independent investigations and prosecutions in shootings by police officers. They can also collect key data on the use of force, and on the race of individuals stopped or arrested by police. These and other solutions are spelled out in a string of government and expert reports, including the Obama administration’s Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing; the findings of the Center for Policing Equity; and the Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence report put out by our own Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. ….
What Black Lives Matter means beyond policing reform
Source: Garrett Felber, The Conversation, July 11, 2016

….The challenge facing us now is twofold. First, how can we think about addressing the problem of racialized police violence beyond professional and mechanical reforms?

And second, how can the national spotlight on police brutality be used as an opportunity to make broader changes that answer the fundamental question posed by Black Lives Matter: What does it look like to value black life?…

What troubled US police forces can learn from the civil rights era
Source: Kevern Verney, The Conversation, July 12, 2016

…..The Kerner Commission, as it is better known, was set up by President Lyndon Johnson, who tasked it with identifying the causes of the race riots that took place across the US in the five “Long Hot Summers” of 1964-68.

The report found a history of poor police practices was a common factor in many riots. And five decades on, it seems not much has changed.

In 2015, the report of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing made the same point: “Law enforcement cannot build community trust if it is seen as an occupying force coming in from outside to impose control on the community.”

Among other things, the task force looked to new technology to provide a solution for old problems. It recommended that police officers wear body cameras to help with training and improve public trust. They should also carry tasers as well as guns.

It sounds like common sense. If officers are filmed while they are on duty then they will think twice before stepping out of line; and using tasers to stop violent suspects will lead to fewer fatal shootings. But it’s not that simple…..

Getting Out of the Weeds: Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

Source: Diana M. Bardes and Paul A. Green, Benefits Magazine, Vol. 52 no. 10, October 2015
(subscription required) (scroll down)

Although 24 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized or legalized the use of medical marijuana, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. What are employers, employees and health plans to do?

New Studies of Gig Economy Workers’ Rights

Source: National Employment Law Project, 2016

Three new policy briefs from NELP take a closer look at “gig economy” workers’ rights.

On-Demand Workers Should Be Covered by Workers’ Compensation
Many on-demand companies operate in dangerous industries with high workplace injury and fatality rates. Yet they classify their workers as “independent contractors” and thereby avoid the responsibility of providing workers’ compensation and other employee protections. This practice presents real costs to the workers hired by these companies and shifts the cost of work-related injuries onto the backs of workers and the general public. The job-related dangers to which these workers are exposed makes it critical that they be covered by workers’ comp.

Flexibility and the On-Demand Economy
On-demand companies often tout flexibility as one of the main reasons why people choose to work for them. This brief challenges that premise, however, showing that monetary pressures, peak demand periods, and company-imposed rules and incentives mean workers have much less flexibility than the companies claim. The brief also debunks the assertion that flexibility is incompatible with employee status. 

Ensuring Fairness in Background Checks for On-Demand Work
On-demand companies promote the idea that they provide work opportunities for people in communities with high unemployment. But many of these companies fall short when it comes to complying with the civil rights and consumer laws regulating the use of background checks for employment. Strong protections are needed to ensure that companies use non-discriminatory hiring practices.