Second Chance Employer Profile
Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Hummelstown, Penn., Flagger Force is an industry leading, safety driven, short term traffic control company. It partners with gas and electric utilities, tree care companies, subcontractors and other organizations that maintain critical infrastructure. The company operates more than 500 active work zones each day in the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Among its 2,000 employees, about 90% work in the field, with the rest at the Flagger Force operations center and its corporate office. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes the field workers as flaggers, the company refers to them as crew members, which is the entry level position. Within the first 45 to 60 days of employment, the crew members can advance to crew leaders. The crew leaders set up basic flagging operations, control traffic in work zones and meet with clients, among other responsibilities. The advance crew leaders have more responsibility. They set up complex work zones and organize shifting lanes, merging patterns and intersection work.
Fair chance hiring practices
“Flagger Force is committed to cultivating a diverse and thriving workforce, including providing employment opportunities for those of all experience levels and backgrounds who want to work,” says Shea Zwerver, Flagger Force’s workforce development manager.
“Individuals who thrive in our field positions typically are found to be self-starters, good at working independently, seek out opportunities to gain more work hours and are undaunted by the effort it takes to get ahead. I find these traits are also common in individuals previously incarcerated, and Flagger Force receives a lot of applications from individuals with criminal convictions and/or records.”
Recently, Flagger Force implemented a mechanism to start tracking the number of employees with criminal convictions and/or records.
It also is transitioning to using the term “fair chance,” rather than “second chance.”
“Second chance implies there was a first chance, and at the fault of the individual, it didn’t work out,” says Zwerver. “It has the connotation that an employer or society (the entity with the hiring power) is in a way doing them a favor by giving them another chance.
“I feel like the term fair chance acknowledges providing an opportunity that might not have ever been given in the first place due to the inequity and injustices in our systems, and provides a fair opportunity to employment just like any other person applying.”
Flagger Force finds many applicants through its network of referral partners that include community organizations, re-entry training programs, and parole and probation officers located in places where employees live, including Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Atlanta and Tampa. It also attends job fairs and career events hosted by its partners. Some applicants find the company through word of mouth.
The requirements for the entry-level crew member position are basic. To be hired, potential employees must be at least 18 years of age and meet the physical requirements of the job. They need to be able to walk one to two miles per day, stand for 8 to 12 hours at a time, lift 25 pounds and work in all weather conditions, whether rain, snow or excessive cold or heat. Although having a driver’s license is preferred, not having one won’t necessarily exclude someone from working at Flagger Force. They do need a working cell phone, however, since that’s how employees receive their work assignments. A high school diploma or GED is not required, but through a partnership with GEDWorks™, Flagger Force offers employees the opportunity to earn their GED at no cost.
The company conducts background checks but only after an applicant successfully completes its crew member training. At that point, candidates receive an employment offer that is contingent upon passing a drug screening and motor vehicle record and criminal background check.
A criminal background check won’t necessarily rule people out. “We do not have a blanket policy that disqualifies specific convictions. Rather, we assess each applicant on an individual basis and take into consideration whether there would be any business impacts, as well as impacts to the individual’s safety and/or success,” says Zwerver.
“For example, if someone is on parole and has restrictions to crossing county or state lines or can’t work near schools, this creates a logistical, scheduling, challenge for our dispatch team which we have not found a large-scale solution to yet. We also would not want to unintentionally put the individual in a situation that would cause a violation of their parole.” (Parole and probation officers can usually offer permission to go beyond any limited/restricted distance, however.)
Flagger Force also screens employees based on whether it is actively hiring in an applicant’s area. If there is not enough work to give people an average 35-hour week, the company will file the application until there is more work in that area.
Flagger Force helps employees overcome transportation challenges by operating an employer-sponsored transportation program that pairs employees with company vehicles to new hires who do not have a driver’s license and/or vehicle.
For those candidates who are supported, however, the program “also provides new employees with access to someone they can lean on for support and guidance, both professionally and personally, as they grow their career in the traffic control industry,” according to Zwerver.
Another transportation benefit is the opportunity to become a crew leader and gain the use of a company vehicle within 45 to 60 days of employment, thus removing transportation barriers that some employees may encounter.
But transportation isn’t the only barrier that the company deals with. “Flagger Force’s employee assistance program provides 24/7/365 support to those in need on topics ranging from guidance with workplace relationships, finances and budgeting, life events and mental health services,” says Zwerver. “With a simple phone call or text message, an employee is immediately connected to a master’s level clinician who will coordinate any care or services needed.”
For those struggling financially, a program developed and managed by employees known as the Flagger Force Foundation Employee Hardship Grant allows those facing unexpected “life events” to apply for financial assistance.
The company has invested a lot of time and effort in its fair chance hiring initiatives, and the results have really paid off and been rewarding.
“Through fair chance employment, Flagger Force has created meaningful, positive changes across our communities. We have made a direct impact on individuals, their families, the economy and the community as a whole,” says Zwerver.
“Flagger Force is committed to contributing to the growth of those re-entering the workforce after incarceration. And we do this by continually re-evaluating and fostering an inclusive work environment. We hope our work can be an example to other businesses, as well as to our employees.”