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Criminal convictions and applying for a job

A person convicted of a crime can experience negative consequences that continue long after they have served whatever sentence they were given.

One such type of consequence are employment difficulties. Finding a steady job can be an important part of getting one’s life back together after serving a criminal sentence. However, finding a job when one has a criminal conviction, such as a drug conviction, on one’s record can be challenging here in the United States. It is estimated that around a third of nonworking men in the 25 to 54 age group are men with criminal records.

One step of trying to get a job where barriers can arise for individuals with criminal convictions is the application process. Whether one has a criminal record is something that many employers inquire about during the hiring process. Research indicates that male job applicants who report having a conviction to an employer have about a 50 percent lower likelihood of receiving an offer for the job or getting a call back.

Recently, a step was taken that is aimed at helping reduce the barriers individuals with criminal convictions could face in relation to applying for jobs with federal agencies. Specifically, the President recently ordered federal agencies to not inquire about a job applicant’s criminal history early in the application process. This measure is aimed at giving job applicants a chance to make a good impression in the hiring process before being asked about their criminal history. While many federal agencies already do this, the order will make this uniform policy across the different agencies.

There are some things to note about this order. One is that there are some federal agency jobs that are exempt from it, mainly jobs deemed to be “sensitive” positions. Another is that the order does not prohibit federal agencies from asking about criminal history at all during the application process, it just prohibits such inquiries from happening early in the process. Also, the order only applies to federal agencies, not federal contractors or other type of employers.

What impact do you think this order will have? What rules do you think the state government here in Wisconsin and the federal government should put in place regarding employer inquiries into the criminal history of job applicants?

Source: The New York Times, “Obama Takes Steps to Help Former Inmates Find Jobs and Homes,” Peter Baker, Nov. 2, 2015

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