Criminal Records and Employment
Millions of Americans - one in four adults - have arrest or conviction records that often follow them throughout their lives. (See NELP report 65 Million "Need Not Apply"). Most employers now conduct criminal background checks, potentially derailing qualified workers who are rebuilding their lives or who have inaccurate records or minor offenses. As a result, many employers are losing out on qualified workers in industries as diverse as trucking, health care and private security, where there are serious labor shortages.
NELP has been a leader in the movement to restore fairness to the process of criminal background checks and remove unnecessary or badly-designed barriers to the employment of people with criminal records. We promote model employment policies and basic protections that allow qualified workers with records to attain and retain quality jobs, in the following areas:
Especially since September 11th, more federal and state laws have imposed broad new mandates denying employment to large numbers of workers who have a criminal record. Working with allied organizations, NELP has used its expertise in occupational licensing laws to develop model reforms that improve the reliability of criminal background checks and reward rehabilitation. NELP has testified before Congress and in the states, while also documenting the latest legislative developments. (See NELP 2010-11 Legislative Round-Up).
Every year more than 700,000 people are released from U.S. prisons looking for work and a new way of life in their local communities. Working in partnership with advocates and policymakers across the U.S., NELP has played a key role promoting state and local hiring policies that reduce unfair barriers to employment by restricting consideration of an individual's criminal history until the final stages of the hiring process. NELP also maintains an updated guide on city and county "ban the box" policies, as well as a summary of the state fair hiring initiatives. (See NELP reports Cities Pave the Way, City and County Ban the Box Guide, and State Fair Hiring Initiatives).
Anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws provide critical protections for workers with criminal records. But too often these laws are not enforced. NELP is working to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Credit Reporting Act to expand job opportunities for people with criminal records. NELP maintains extensive resources on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's guidance on the use of conviction and arrest records in employment decisions and the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Labor applying the civil rights protections to the workforce development community.
Over 1.5 million port workers nationwide are required by federal law to pass a new FBI criminal background check in order to continue working in the ports. NELP joined with unions and port security officials to help these and other transportation workers navigate new background checks and keep their jobs. (See NELP report Scorecard on the Post-9/11 Port Worker Background Checks and Worker Factsheet: How to File TWIC Waivers & Appeals).
Madeline Neighly of NELP discusses ban the box on the Melissa Harris-Perry show.
See also our work in the area of Economic and Workforce Development, which can often be leveraged to increase employment opportunities for workers with criminal records.
For more information on our work in this area, please contact Maurice Emsellem, firstname.lastname@example.org.