PART THREE: Employer’s Perceptions when Considering Felons for Employment
Introduction: This is the 3rd installment from The Regis Spring student team which included Courtney Bargas, Claire Swann and Kate Milburn, reporting on their research from their interviews with area employers.
(One local-area food service establishment) was the only employer we came across that was outright against hiring ex-felons, and stated it was currently against corporate policy to hire individuals with criminal backgrounds, although they have gone back and forth on the issue for many years. If an applicant were to check the box on their application stating that they’ve been convicted of a felony within the past seven years, they are automatically eliminated from moving forward in the hiring process.
Due to repeated previous experiences with former felons returning to prison, (the restaurant) Inn does not currently feel that it is cost effective for them to hire applicants with a criminal history. “If I hire a cook and pay them $12/hour, that’s $5,000 just to train them, if they just came out of prison there is a good chance they’ll go back and so they probably won’t be around long enough to make the cost worth it to us…we can’t risk it.” This seemed to be the biggest concern among the employers we interviewed.
Although the hiring manager shared with us that she does currently have some employees with criminal records that have been working there for many years (before the current corporate policy was put in place) and have been wonderful employees, she still seemed to hold very negative perceptions towards ex-convicts overall. She believes that since (her company) is a family-friendly restaurant, it is too risky to hire someone with a criminal background, particularly a sex offense, because there are often children and young girls at their establishment.
Upon speaking with the hiring managers at (two national grocer companies), we discovered that they do not hold any sort of authority when it comes to hiring ex-felons. Once they see the felony box marked on the application, their corporate hiring department runs a background check. The results of this background check either gives them the go-ahead to interview, or automatically removes them from the applicant pool. This automatic decision is made by going through a list of felonies that automatically exclude one from an applicant pool. These felonies include theft, sexual harassment, assault and battery, etc., making it nearly impossible for an ex-convict to obtain an interview to explain their story.
Per the request of the CEO head volunteer, we inquired with employers whether they had knowledge of either the “Work Opportunity Credit Program” or the “Federal Bonding Program”. These programs provide a fiscal incentive to hire felons and add a degree of security. None of the interviewees had prior knowledge of these programs. Upon introduction to the programs, no employers expressed any significant interest, with the exception of (a single fast food establishment). This raises the next-step question of what CEO can do in terms of effectively educating employers about these beneficial programs.