News & Resources

Non-violent crimes can still prevent employment

May 17, 2011 Matt Roesly

Non-violent crimes can still prevent employment
The New York Times reports that the pool of Americans with criminal histories seeking jobs is greater than ever. Stiffer sentencing and more arrests for non-violent crimes such as drug offenses have been a primary factor, and with more than 700,000 people released from state and federal prisons each year, the number of tainted resumes has reached staggering heights.
 However, companies cannot use a blanket no-hire policy when it comes to prospective employees with criminal convictions, since it could discriminate against minority groups that have higher rates of criminal convictions, according to Employment Screening Resources News. "An employer cannot simply say, ‘No one with a criminal record need apply,’" Lester Rosen, founder and president of San Francisco-based background check provider ESR, tells the media outlet. "That statistically could end up having an unfair impact on certain groups." Rosen adds that if an applicant has a criminal record, the employer must determine if there is a rational, job-related reason why that person is unfit for work. However, many companies still screen out anyone who has a hint of criminal activity in his or her background, which violates government guidelines that demand employers take into account the severity of an offense, the Times adds. "I understand the employers’ response that, ‘We don’t want murderers working for us,’"Adam T. Klein, employment lawyer with Outten and Golden, told the media outlet. "What if you just have minor events, like arrests for drug use in college, speeding tickets, D.W.I.’s?" Conversely, there are some industries that those with criminal records will have little trouble breaking into. Government investigators ran background checks on more than 250 Medicare-certified nursing homes across the country in 2009, and found that 92 percent of the elderly facilities surveyed employed at least one former convict. There is a lack of federal supervision when it comes to the background screening practices of nursing homes, and there is no federal law requiring a criminal history check of prospective employees. However, the criminal backgrounds of most elderly healthcare employees include primarily non-violent crimes such as property crimes, shoplifting or writing bad checks. Plus, the study found that most crimes were committed long before the person was employed by a nursing home. ESR News adds that many U.S. cities such as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and states including Massachusetts and Hawaii are advocates of the "ban the box" campaign, which supports the removal of criminal history questions via applications or interviews for potential job seekers.