How to hire health care workers from a unique population – those with criminal records

hire health care workersHospitals and health care agencies and facilities are scrambling to fill a rapidly growing need for workers at every level. And there’s a population that’s eager and ready to fill those positions.

That population is people with criminal records, and if Johns Hopkins Medicine is any indication, they make pretty good workers. Johns Hopkins Medicine operates six hospitals and other medical facilities and has pioneered hiring formerly incarcerated individuals to work in them. In fact, about 20 percent of entry level hires have come from this population each year over the past decade.

A five-year study of nearly 500 people it hired with records showed a lower turnover during the first 40 months of these employees than non-offenders. A further study found that 73 out of 79 employees with serious records were still employed after three to six years. The organization published The Johns Hopkins Hospital Success in Hiring Ex-Offenders to explain why and how they do it.

Now other health care facilities that would like to hire people with records have a step-by-step guide that will lead them through the process. Chicago’s Safer Foundation and the National Employment Law Project have published A Healthcare Employer Guide to Hiring People with Arrest and Conviction Records: Seizing the Opportunity to Tap a Large, Diverse Workforce.

The comprehensive 61-page toolkit covers the why and how to of hiring people with records and offers success stories of those who have been hired and facilities that have hired people from this population.

Urgent need for workers in an employment sector that will become the nation’s largest

The need is urgent as the toolkit points out. During the next decade health care will become the nation’s largest employment sector, with an estimated addition of 3.8 million jobs. At the same time, an estimated nearly 700,000 people are being released from jails and prisons each year and need employment.

The toolkit urges institutions and organizations to seriously consider hiring some of those people.

“Given the burgeoning market for healthcare services and the forecasted competition for skilled workers, we encourage you to fully consider qualified people with records when filling healthcare job openings,” it says. “The singular demand for workers combined with the nation’s recognition of the need for criminal justice reform presents an opportunity for you to invest in previously untapped talent pools, including people with arrest or conviction records.”

This toolkit, among other things:

  • Dispels the many myths about hiring ex-offenders.
  • Explains why hiring people with records is good for a business because, it can
    • help enlarge its talent pool
    • reduce recruiting costs
    • increase diversity and corporate social responsibility
    • help an institution or service comply with federal employment laws
    • reduce turnover by hiring loyal employees
    • increase quality of health care by hiring people who understand vulnerable populations
    • take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Federal Bonding Program, both government incentive programs

The major goal of the toolkit is to offer a step-by-step guide to hiring people with arrest or conviction records.

Things to consider when hiring people with records

Here is a brief outline of the steps to follow:

Step 1: Be careful of the language you use. Not all people with records spent time in prison, so avoid terms like ex-offender or formerly incarcerated.

Step 2: Do not automatically exclude applicants with a record, and create fair screening standards.

Step 3: Ban the box on application forms in order to give people with a record a fair chance.

Step 4: Don’t make decisions on the applicant’s suitability based on what they self-disclose, because they could be confused or have misinformation about their conviction.

Step 5: If you must do a background check, use a reliable company and allow the applicant a chance to verify the accuracy of the information it provides.

Step 6: If employment is denied as the result of a background check, the employer should give the applicant a pre-adverse action notice with a copy of the background check. The employer should also indicate the offense that disqualified them from being hired and offer an opportunity to present evidence of rehabilitation before a final hiring decision is made.

Step 7: After all of the evidence is considered, either hire the candidate or formally rescind the offer in writing.

The toolkit recommends working with community-based intermediary groups. Doing so ensures a pipeline of suitable employees, and the toolkit gives seven tips on how to create effective relationships with those sourcing partners.

A section on workforce development best practices and a chart that serves as an example of a career pathway for a person interested in advancing in the health care field round out the resources of this useful toolkit.

 

Philanthropic leaders challenge foundations to ban the box

ban the boxPhilanthropic leaders from 42 foundations announced late last month that they have banned the box, joining a decade-long movement that has spread to 21 states and more than 100 localities.

The foundations, all members and allies of the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, have committed to adopting second-chance hiring policies or ensuring that questions about criminal convictions do not appear on their employment applications. The ultimate goal: to increase employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated job seekers in the philanthropic sector.

Foundations take action as employers to ban the box 

The Alliance, through its Ban the Box Philanthropy Challenge, invites other foundations to join them. Although foundations have funded “ban the box” efforts across the country, now for the first time they are being encouraged to take action as employers to help rectify the problems that formerly incarcerated job seekers face.

“It is time to end the pervasive discrimination against people with past criminal records. The era of mass incarceration and the war on drugs have done severe damage to families and communities, with an enormously disproportionate impact on people of color,” says Tim Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation “All employers can be leaders in ensuring that a prior conviction does not mean a lifetime of unemployment. Everyone deserves a second chance and the opportunity to compete for a job.”

This call to action follows positive developments in the private sector led by companies like Target, Starbucks and Facebook.

More than one-third of American adults have criminal records

The need to ban the box is urgent. More than 70 million – nearly one in three – American adults have arrest or conviction records that might appear in background checks, limiting their possibilities for employment.

In addition to issuing the challenge, the Alliance has commissioned the National Employment Law Project to develop a Model Fair Chance Hiring Policy and Toolkit for employers in the philanthropic sector.

Among actions foundations are being encouraged to take are:

  • To remove “the box” from employment applications.
  • Leave background checks till the end of the hiring process.
  • Integrate the U.S. EEOC’s (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) guidelines into hiring considerations.
  • Adopt strong standards of transparency and accuracy.

The actions of the philanthropic sector set an example for others to follow. It will be interesting to see how many others do.