Apple Made the Right Call on Fair-Hiring Practices. Uncle Sam Should Follow Its Lead.

Last week, faster than you can say, “Your software needs to be updated to iOS 8.3,” Apple defended its policy of barring people with felony records from working construction on its new Cupertino campus, and then rescinded it after an outpouring of public criticism.

Apple made the right call. As a multinational corporation, its support for fair-chance hiring carries huge symbolic value, as well as positively affecting the lives of real people who have done their time and seek to rebuild their lives as productive neighbors, fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters. And in big business, Apple is not alone. Target, Walmart, Home Depot, and Bed, Bath & Beyond have removed the question about convictions from their initial job applications. Meanwhile, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), 15 states and more than 100 cities and counties, plus the District of Columbia, have adopted fair-chance hiring policies.

It’s long past time for the federal government to step up.

The ACLU has joined the call of NELP, All of Us or None, the PICO National Network, and almost 200 other organizations and individuals to President Obama to issue an executive order and presidential memorandum directing federal agencies and federal contractors to adopt fair-hiring practices. The federal government employs more than 2 million civilians, and approximately 22 percent of U.S. workers are employed by federal and federally funded contractors or subcontractors. Adoption of fair-chance hiring throughout the federal workforce would not only demonstrate powerful leadership; it would also impact millions of people.

To be clear, fair-chance hiring policies don’t guarantee jobs for people with criminal records. They simply help ensure that those individuals are considered for employment on their merits, typically by postponing a criminal background check till later in the hiring process and incorporating guidelines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that require employers to consider whether a particular criminal conviction is “job related and consistent with business necessity.” The EEOC has stated that “criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin” – not surprising given that the U.S. criminal justice system disproportionately impacts African-Americans and Latinos.

In his recent interview with David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” President Obama acknowledged that individuals with felony histories are often prevented from entering the job market. He called it “counter-productive.”

Yes, Mr. President – it is counter-productive.

And you can help make it right. Make the federal government a model for the rest of the nation by requiring federal agencies and contractors to give people with criminal records a second chance. 

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Anonymous

Great points!

Anonymous

I was going to write something and then I realized that employers could reasonably want to make hiring decisions based on the types of moral decisions (e.g. bank robberies or murder) an employee has made. And clearly if released felons are barred from working that is also doing damage to society. I actually have no idea how to look at this problem.

Jean Vitayanuvatti

A good balance of pro and con but prospective employers also need to take into consideration the length of the sentence served and a lot more, if the prospective employee is willing to discuss it further. There needs to be an honest dialogue. After a sentence of say, 10 or 20 years, the "ex-con" is not likely to be the same person who made those ill-conceived moral decisions in their youth. I would never look any man or woman who served time and expect to be looking at the same person who committed their crime long ago. A serial killer isn't likely to be out of prison and sitting in front of me on a job interview. It's all about learning from our mistakes, second chances and redemption...and I'm not just talking about the previously incarcerated.

Anonymous

A bank robbery is not a murder, and a murder is not a sex crime. Morality is neither black nor white, and you can't judge others by lumping all crime together, or even categories of crime.

KateLSA

There are a few glitches with this theory, some government contractor positions require a security clearance. There is no way an ex-felon could pass the rigorous background check.

TK

You are never an ex-felon.... Always a felon.

Anonymous

Companies in general continue to make the ignorant assumption of second guessing the rehabilitation of an offender and, thus, refuse to give a much needed second chance. As a result, an offender that cannot gain employment stands a much higher chance of reoffending. Humans, regardless of their bad choices, need to eat and survive without turning to illegal means to do so. We all deserve second chances, no matter what color of skin you may have.

Otis Hemmings

This is a good trend and sends a strong message to everyone. This is the USA and we have a Constitution that protects everyone.
Thanks for leading the Industry...

Anonymous

I am not a felon but I am one of those with a long misdemeanor record who was granted a top secret clearance during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

This means that when the government needs to use you, they will bend every policy necessary to achieve their goals.

Now that we are past those needs, I seriously doubt that I would have been admistratively approved for that clearance

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