Editor's note: This article was written by Lauren Bell, Fair Chance Program Manager at Checkr.
Each month I have the chance to talk with new Checkrs about our fairness mission, the endeavor to build a fairer future of work for all, during Checkr’s new hire onboarding session. Over the course of an hour or so we connect on personal and professional alignment with Checkr’s mission and discuss the benefits and value of fair chance hiring. Threads of logic and compassion are tightly woven in the conversation as we build community in the process, reinforcing with each other what a truly significant act fair chance hiring is.
I’m always struck by the presence of attendees who were directly or indirectly impacted by incarceration, and their vulnerability, their courage to share in the group: “my mom is a good person who made a bad mistake. She deserves a fair chance to make life changes, pursue a career and become the best person she is meant to be. I’m happy to be working at a place that understands that someone like her is more than her worst mistake.” Incarceration impacts so many people.
The criminal legal system in the United States has created highly effective pathways into custody and community corrections, and our policy makers have done a great job of building institutional and systemic barriers to life stability and career mobility through a range of collateral consequences to incarceration. There are nearly 44,000 barriers across the country from state occupational licensing barriers, to unaffordable fines and fees, to housing and job exclusions, to loan denial, and beyond.
We outright demand that upon release, people get housing and a job. Then, through punitive laws, fears and bias, we plainly deny people opportunities to reach those goals. The paradox is astounding. It impacts people of all races and ethnicities but disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx communities. We can and must do so much better. Fair chance hiring is a balanced and viable solution that should make sense to all.
So what is fair chance hiring?
Broadly speaking, it is a way to recognize the grit, motivation, determination and professional ambition of people with arrest and conviction histories, that people are assets that bring value to companies. It is a way to balance safety with opportunities to rebuild lives through the power of work. It isn’t a requirement to hire people with criminal records. It calls on leaders to ensure that recruiting and hiring practices allow people with criminal records a fair shot at competing for jobs. In short, fair chance hiring asks leaders to stop screening out large volumes of people based on criminal history alone, and to consider the whole person behind the criminal record, inclusive of her/his successes since the conviction.
Checkr has embraced and implemented a streamlined set of practices that honor the whole person and demonstrates, in practice, the values and benefits of fair chance hiring. Checkr’s Fair Chance Playbook is a nuts and bolts guide for exploring these fair chance practices and integrating them into your recruitment and hiring ecosystem.
Here is an overview of some key fair chance hiring cornerstones:
INSPIRE: Inspire your leaders and teams to learn more about mass incarceration in the United States; acknowledge that there is unfair and in many circumstances, unwarranted bias against job applicants with arrest and conviction histories. Commit to fair chance hiring.
ADJUDICATION FRAMEWORK: Evaluate your current adjudication framework. Notice if or how it is overly restrictive. Identify your baseline risks and right size your adjudication framework so that your baseline risks are addressed and a wider array of candidates have a chance to be considered for employment.
FAIR CHANCE SOURCE PARTNER: Collaborate with a non-profit organization or a fair chance source partner that is clear on your skill and hiring expectations for different open roles. They can direct motivated and qualified candidates to your recruiters or HR team.
INDIVIDUALIZED ASSESSMENT: Create an Individualized Assessment panel, a small panel inclusive of HR and legal leadership, along with your DEI or other leaders responsible for accelerating career pathways for emerging talent. When a record is flagged by the adjudication team, this panel can be alerted and convened to take an objective look at the candidate and consider the array of information that is available.
NATURE, TIME, NATURE: Make the “Nature, Time, Nature” assessment a backbone of your hiring process and the Individualized Assessment panel.
- Nature: What is the record in question? Understand the record beyond the penal code on the background check report. The background check only tells part of the story. If you are going to take an adverse action against a candidate, make sure you encourage them to submit a personal statement, letters of recommendation and any other articles that demonstrate life progress and success.
- Time: Consider the amount of time that has passed since the conviction or between convictions. In many states and cities with fair chance laws, arrests and convictions older than seven - ten years can’t be a hiring consideration. Even if you don’t yet have a fair chance law, consider using this time frame as a standard.
- Nature: What is the nexus between the crime or alleged crime and the job? If there isn’t a tight nexus with the job, consider moving forward in the hiring process. If a person was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI three years ago, for example, should she/he not be fully considered for an analyst or administrative role that doesn’t require driving?
One in three or seventy seven million people in the United States has an arrest or conviction history. The scale of this enormous challenge alone should be an urgent call to action to the business community: we can change lives and positively impact families and communities where we operate our businesses through ensuring that people with criminal records have a fair shot at employment. We can advance social justice and racial equity through the routine act of hiring.
"If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people doing the oppressing.”Malcolm X
During this year’s Fair Chance Month especially, Checkr calls on the business community to think more holistically about job seekers with arrest and conviction histories, learn more about ways to balance safety and life changing opportunities through fair chance hiring, and join us in a movement to build a fairer future of work for all.
To learn more about fair chance hiring, find resources in the hub below.