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There are many facets to building a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace that some businesses tend to overlook when enacting these types of programs. Many DEI resources discuss the purposeful inclusion of those with different ethnic or religious backgrounds, genders, and abilities. With that, however, it’s also critical to consider and incorporate the facet of Fair Chance Hiring.

What is Fair Chance Hiring?

Fair Chance Hiring originated from the Fair Chance Act at both the state and federal level which says that when you have a candidate who applies for a job, you are not supposed to ask them about any particular arrest or conviction history before you make them a conditional offer of employment. The purpose of this is to eliminate a sort of “second tier” group of citizens we’ve created in America for people who have arrest or conviction records.

As a result, there has been a movement over the last several years to urge employers to consider a candidates qualifications and skill sets rather than looking at a mistake they may have made in the past that resulted in a criminal record.

The benefits of Fair Chance Hiring in light of a labor shortage

Fair Chance Hiring is a hot topic across the country, seeing as there is a tremendous untapped talent pool and a significant labor shortage in America. To put it in perspective, there are approximately 70 million people who have some form of a criminal record, which equates to about one third of the country’s workforce. Within that large group exists incredible talent — in fact, there are people in this country who are executives at major Fortune 500 companies who have suffered felony convictions, which means there is also great entry level talent within this group.

When you provide the opportunity for these highly marginalized groups to thrive in a middle-class economy and pave a way in livable wage jobs, it provides them with extra incentive to desire to perform better, remain loyal, and stay with the company longer.

Additionally, it might be plausible to assume that employees who came from Standford, or Cal Berkeley, or other premier levels would tend to promote faster, but on the contrary, those who have been involved with the criminal justice system actually promote faster when given the opportunity. Research based on 1.3 million United States military enlistees shows that those with criminal records were promoted more quickly and to higher ranks than other enlistees and had the same attrition rates due to poor performance as their peers without records.

If you practice DEI and it’s important to you and your company’s mission, it’s important to have justice-impacted people as the baseline for your inclusion strategy.

What is Ban the Box?

Ban the Box is a movement by civil rights groups who require employers to remove questions related to criminal history from their job applications. The “box” is what previously convicted job seekers face when being asked to disclose that information on their applications. According to the NAACP, more than 25 states and 150 local areas have adopted Ban the Box laws and policies.

One study from Johns Hopkins Hospital found that Ban the Box policies on initial applications and making hiring decisions based on merit showed that hired applicants with criminal records had a lower turnover rate than those with no records.

The DEI sector in corporate America focuses largely on advocating for the representation of marginalized groups including people of color, those who identify as LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and women. However, we need to consider why formerly convicted applicants are not being advocated for at the same level of priority. There are many common stereotypes of those with former convictions that DEI initiatives can help to break. To learn more about fair chance hiring check out our on-demand webinar Building Fair Chance Hiring into Your Workplace.


Katie Coleman
Product Marketing Manager
Katie Coleman is a Product Marketing Manager at Circa. Based on her conversations and research, Katie produces webinars and writes articles on diversity and other employment-related topics to guide employers, employees and job seekers in their professional endeavors.

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