Second Chance Employer Profile

Johns Hopkins Medicine

With headquarters in Baltimore, Md., Johns Hopkins Medicine encompasses the university’s school of medicine and an extensive health system. With its original hospital dating back to 1889, the organization now includes six hospitals, four suburban health care and surgery centers, more than 40 primary and specialty care outpatient sites, and an international division. It employs more than 40,000 full-time faculty and staff members, making it the largest employer in the city of Baltimore.

Second chance hiring practices 

Johns Hopkins has been a leader in second chance hiring among health care providers. In 2016, the organization published The Johns Hopkins Hospital Success in Hiring Ex-Offenders, a report that highlighted its efforts in this area. It conducted a five-year study of nearly 500 people it hired with records that showed a lower turnover during the first 40 months of employment than that of non-offenders.

According to Yariela Kerr-Donovan, senior director, strategic workforce development, between 4 percent and 10 percent of the people Johns Hopkins Medicine hires “have had a hit on their criminal background check.”

One of the ways they find employees is to partner with community-based organizations that serve not only second chance employees but also individuals who have disabilities. “We try to work with the case managers at the organizations giving them information and highlighting opportunities for employment where their clients could be an applicant,” says Kerr-Donovan. “Those who come through the community organizations have a career coach to help them navigate the system and find what would be a good fit.”

A talent acquisition screener reviews those applicants who have a hit on their background check. The screener reviews that person’s record and compares it to the job they’ve applied for on a case-by-case basis.

The organizations Johns Hopkins has partnered with include Helping Up Mission, Living Classrooms, Pivot, Catholic Charities, MCVET, the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and the departments of social services for the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.

Johns Hopkins Medicine had an adult internship that was paused in March 2022 but will be reinstituted sometime in the future. If interns were successful with the on-the-job training they would be invited to go through the application process. Although the system may change, in the past, the internships were tied to people receiving public assistance and weren’t on the Johns Hopkins payroll. Some of them may have been receiving a stipend from one of the organization’s community partners that was receiving federal funding.

Rather than offering special non-job related training and services, the medical nonprofit relies on workforce development agencies and the community-based organizations to provide these.

“They get funding to help people get employment training. We’re not trying to duplicate efforts,” Kerr-Donovan says. “HR and security and legal are the only ones who know that someone is a returning citizen. We don’t disclose it. The person can disclose that themselves, but we do not. We keep that internal.”

Johns Hopkins doesn’t treat its second chance hires any differently than anyone else. And all employees have access to career coaches to help them succeed in their jobs.

Being a medical organization means that many of its employees need licensing, and the rules and regulations set by the licensing bodies have been among the challenges of its second chance hiring initiative.

“People may want to work in a particular area and they can’t because of their background. It’s out of our control. We can’t do anything about that,” Kerr-Donovan says.

Kerr-Donovan has some advice for others in health care who may be considering creating a second chance hiring initiative.

“Have someone on staff who is very familiar with the judicial system and who can review the background checks. What shows up in the background checks can be confusing for someone who doesn’t understand them. And getting background reports from different states can be even more confusing,” she says.

“Someone who’s been involved with criminal culture will understand those reports and can provide a case-by-case review of a person’s individual background. No two scenarios are the same. There are disparities in the criminal justice system. Black and brown people are more engaged. People should be able to look at the actual background and understand the risks for a particular job. The average talent acquisition person may not have that skill set.”

Thanks to the efforts of staff members like Kerr-Donovan, second chance hiring has become an important part of what Johns Hopkins Medicine is all about.

“We support the communities where we provide our services. The strength of our communities is affected. There’s medical coverage and other benefits,” she says.

“It’s also making sure that we don’t leave talented people behind. People may have made mistakes in the past but that doesn’t mean they can’t provide good services and help our organization grow. In the end, it’s a business decision. It’s not a program for us. It’s the way we do business.”

To learn more about Johns Hopkins Medicine