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Frequently Asked Questions for Employers

Banning the box on job applications is not a measure to force an employer to higher someone with a criminal background when comparing them to other qualified candidates, rather a tool to ensure a fairer hiring and decision-making process by shifting the criminal history question from the initial job application to later on in the hiring process. 

Depending on the hiring process, HR and hiring managers can check the applicant’s criminal history after the initial interview while others wait until they’ve extended a job offer. Things to consider when reviewing an applicant’s criminal history are the conviction itself, the time passed since the conviction occurred, mitigating circumstances and rehabilitation evidence (if applicable). 

Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions in relation to hiring individuals who have been justice-involved. Answers to the questions below come from a second-chance friendly employer and a justice-involved individual. 

What will other employees think about working alongside justice-involved individuals?
Other employees are not entitled to know the background of their co-workers. That is between human resources and the applicant/employee. Educating all employees and each applicant during the interviewing process is essential to creating a culture of acceptance of justice-involved individuals in the work place.

A discussion by the hiring manager with all applicants should take place about the business’ policy as it relates to the company’s practice of hiring justice-involved individuals during the interviewing process and documented in the employee handbook. During the interview process with a justice-involved applicant, it is important to hear from the applicant on how they view their past criminal involvement (e.g. recognize the error of their ways, accountability, what the individual is doing differently now, length of time since release, if substance-involved history- how long has the individual been in recovery, etc.). 

It is the employer's responsibility to create a culture of acceptance through ongoing education to all employees. This culture must be communicated with the individual during the interviewing process (both justice-involved and those who are not). Management must reflect these values and collectively seek to reinforce them in day-to-day activities and ongoing employee education/training. 

What will the public think of my businesses if I advertise this effort?
Business models have evolved over the past several years and many are aware of Oklahoma’s high incarceration rate. In addition, people do business with businesses who give back to their communities (e.g., buy a pair of Tom’s shoes and someone less fortunate receives a free pair of shoes, etc.). People want others to succeed and second chances give individuals the opportunity to do so. Everyone likes a good comeback story. People want to do business with businesses who invest in human capital. A large percentage of Oklahomans know someone either first or secondhand who’s been involved the criminal justice system.

Employers may be surprised by the public response towards businesses who support people who have made mistakes. Take 2: A Resonance Café can attest to that.

The way a business markets its willingness to hire justice-involved individuals is key in influencing this positive perception that it gives back to the community, gives second chances, and invests in human capital. 

Is there a tax break I can get for hiring someone with a criminal background?
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is available for justice-involved individuals.

How can I work to ensure these individuals have good attendance at work?
It is important to understand the justice-involved individual who is being considered for a position. There are a few questions to ask when confirming their ability to show up for work on time and consistenly. 

  1. Does the person have reliable transportation? 
  2. Has the person been employed before? 
  3. What challenges did the person face in previous employment?
  4. What obligations, legal or otherwise, would affect their work schedule?

It’s important for employers to ask candidates what the employer can do to support the individual’s success if the employer was to make an offer.

Extensive, evidence-based research consistently reports justice-involved individuals are loyal, have a greater retention rate, show gratitude for the opportunity to work and have an equal termination rate when compared to those without justice-involved histories.

Reports show justice-involved people are some of the best employees. Many are returning from structured environments where work is a part of their schedule. In addition, many are still on probation or parole and gainful employment is an obligation. Read the research. 

How can I work with these individuals and their schedules to work around any court demands?
Employers can support justice-involved individuals involved in court proceedings by having a clear understanding with the applicant about what that will look like during the interview process. Depending on the amount of time required to address court requirements, the person may be able to take a lunch break to meet this commitment or skip lunch and leave earlier on the day of court; flex time may be a possibility. 

Returning citizens rarely have ongoing court engagements, as their case has typically been adjudicated prior to or during incarceration. Most people being released from prison may have supervision (i.e., parole, probation, etc.).  Supervising officers want supervisees to work and most prioritize the individual working. Most supervising officers work with the individual around their work schedules to accommodate employment.

Do potential employees still need to provide background information after I make them an employment offer?
Yes. It is important to know the type of crime someone has committed (i.e., violent or non-violent offense, substance-related charge, fraud, etc.) to help understand the justice-involved person’s perspective as it relates to accountability and ownership. Additionally, the type of crime may determine whether the individual is eligible for the position (e.g. certain convictions/driving records ban people from working in certain positions and industries).

How can I tailor my job descriptions to be second-chance friendly?
Clearly state your business is second-chance friendly and that it’s open to all qualified applicants. Businesses may also state that certain findings in a criminal background check do not necessarily eliminate consideration for the position. The more up-front you are on your initial job application as to your willingness to consider all applications, the more qualified applicants you could potentially see, as many justice-involved individuals stop filling applications out when they see the criminal history box on the initial job application.