Improving Access to Financial Services Jobs for Workers With Records


Chairwoman Beatty, Ranking Member Wagner, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for your attention to this important issue. I appreciate the opportunity to submit this information for the record ahead of the subcommittee’s September 28, 2021 hearing, “Access Denied: Eliminating Barriers and Increasing Economic Opportunity for Justice-Involved Individuals.” I am Beth Avery, a senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project.

Founded in 1969, the nonprofit National Employment Law Project (NELP) is a leading advocacy organization with a mission to build a just and inclusive economy where all workers have expansive rights and thrive in good jobs. Together with local, state, and national partners, NELP advances its mission through transformative legal and policy solutions, research, capacity-building, and communications. Our primary goals are to build worker power, dismantle structural and institutional racism, and to ensure economic security for all. In conjunction with allies across the country, NELP works to eliminate the barriers to employment that people with records face and to examine connections between the labor market and carceral systems.

Workers with records need and deserve reliable access to income through employment. They deserve safe, good-paying, stable jobs. But a huge proportion of the millions of people with records are denied work because of overly broad and unnecessary barriers enacted by law or employer bias. Even when they find work, people with records can expect to earn less for the rest of their lives.

Because of massive investments in a legal system that criminalizes and incarcerates people of color, Black and Latinx people are much more likely to have a record than white people. Laws and employer policies that exclude people with records, therefore, disproportionately impact Black and Latinx workers, who already face higher unemployment and worse pay than white workers. In fact, a disproportionate share of people in underpaid, insecure, and unsafe jobs are Black and brown. But occupational segregation is not inevitable or accidental; excluding people with records from good jobs represents one set of policy choices that reinforces it.

The financial services sector is overwhelmingly white and grows even more so as you move up the corporate ladder. The exclusion of people with records contributes to the lack of Black and Latinx employees in the sector. Federal laws unnecessarily prohibit financial services employers from hiring many people with records. Legal barriers, however, are not the sole mechanism locking out people with records. Employers also respond to the stigma of a record and choose not to hire eligible and qualified workers with records. Both laws and employer practices must change if meaningful steps are to be taken toward improving access to good jobs for people with records and racially integrating the financial services workforce.


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