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"Fair Chance" Efforts Continue the Push to Widen Economic Opportunities

By Michael Klazema on 8/8/2019

For incarcerated individuals, the day of release often feels like a rebirth, the opportunity to start fresh again. The joy of regaining freedom can be short-lived considering the many challenges that follow. For former prisoners, there is no "clean slate" that accompanies their new start, and many struggle to find both housing and employment due to their criminal record.  

For most businesses using background checks, checking an individual's criminal record is a key part of the hiring process. Though intended to protect employees and customers while shielding companies from liability, these policies can be highly exclusionary. With many industries facing a pressing need for qualified labor and the increasing awareness surrounding the potential social problems that stem from wholly excluding those with a criminal record from employment, support for changing hiring policies has picked up speed. 

Many states and locales have enacted "ban the box" laws that seek to delay background checks and criminal history inquiries until after an applicant receives a job offer. The goal: allow employers to see that the individual could be an asset to the business before a background check introduces a potential bias against them.  

From California to Massachusetts, governments have opted to require private companies to give a "fair chance" to those with records (with mixed success). The policies are a part of a growing movement to encourage reintegration and rehabilitation and reduce recidivism by preventing the total exclusion of convicted persons. 

Some states have gone another route, opting to expand opportunities for criminal record expungement. Expunged criminal records do not appear on criminal history reports such as backgroundchecks.com's US OneSEARCH. However, expungement is not an option for everyone, and many states do not offer easy pathways towards removing criminal records from view.  

In Maryland, a Baltimore startup is redefining the vetting process by creating a new type of background check—one that produces a numerical, credit score-like assessment of the risk that an individual represents to a business. According to Forbes, the company's founder, Teresa Hodge, noted that many companies would rather not spend time and effort assessing everyone with poor background check results—instead, they issue a denial and field the next applicant. With its new system, Hodge's team hopes to encourage businesses to look beyond the surface of an individual’s background check results. 

These efforts fall in line with similar work completed at the federal level with the 2010 passing of the Fair Sentencing Act. Primarily intended to reduce sentencing disparities, the act included requirements for the Department of Justice to classify offenders based on their risk of re-offending. The DoJ then diverts those offenders into programs aimed at reducing that risk through training and employment.  

As companies strain their resources to fill job openings, national fair chance movements continue to demonstrate that workers with imperfect backgrounds are ready and willing to work, but they need an opportunity. Using the right tools, including backgroundchecks.com's professional license verification, credit checks and MyClearStart, can help employers fully gauge the suitability of an individual beyond one facet of his or her record. 


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  • August 15 Background checks aren't a silver bullet that solves every concern about prospective new hires—they are a tool that must be used with care. How can an incorrect approach lead to inadequate vetting? 
  • August 13 How has legislation and regulation changed the way employers use criminal background checks? We look at some of the rules that modern companies must follow.
  • August 08 With many industries facing labor shortages, advocates and legislatures are reconsidering policies that exclude potential employees. Expansion of record expungement and "ban the box" rules could change the system. 
  • August 06 Continuous background screening or ongoing criminal monitoring is the best way to keep track of critical new developments on an employee’s criminal record. Learn how these background checks work. 
  • August 01

    A new lawsuit filed in New York alleges that department store chain Macy’s ignored federal hiring guidelines and laws, firing individuals for old and non-job-related criminal convictions. 

     

  • July 30 The Minneapolis City Council is considering a series of ordinances that would regulate the use of tenant background checks and security deposits. The city’s tight housing market has made it difficult for individuals with bad credit, eviction histories, or criminal records to find housing.
  • July 25 Following revelations about wrongdoing in USA Gymnastics at the hands of team doctor Larry Nasser, sports organizations must grapple with how to safeguard their members. Some have found more success than others. 
  • July 24 What do landlords want to know before accepting new tenants? Here are the basics included in the average tenant background check.
  • July 23 7-Eleven will pay nearly $2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit concerning its background check process. The lawsuit alleges that the convenience store chain violated the FCRA with its background check disclosure document.
  • July 22 Social and child service organization rely on background checks to vet employees, sponsors, drivers, and other staff members and volunteers. By helping to root out histories of violence, sexual abuse, and other red flags, our resources assist these organizations in keeping the people they serve safe.