Strategies for Creating Fair Employment Opportunities for People with Criminal Records

Finding from the Alameda County Business Leaders Summit on Reentry

Alameda County business leaders, employers, entrepreneurs, staffing agencies, workforce development professionals, and government agencies and officials recently gathered for the Business Leaders Summit on Reentry:  Strategizing for a Strong Local Economy. The three-event series, held on June 18th, June 24th, and July 17th in 2014 drew 90 participants, all of whom brought tremendous energy and interest in developing strategies to work together to increase employment opportunities for Alameda County residents with a prior criminal record.

We are a local thread of a burgeoning national dialogue aimed at putting people with records to work to strengthen communities and bolster the economy.  The U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, recently convened a wide range of business leaders, from Home Depot to Johns Hopkins Hospital Health System, at the White House to highlight corporate willingness to hire people with prior convictions.

The Business Leaders Summit on Reentry was convened by The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR) and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) to engage the business community in developing strategies to expand employment opportunities for people with criminal records in Alameda County.  The events highlighted the need to connect employers to tools and resources that can help maximize the human capital in their communities.  Employers heard—some for the first time—about the laws on hiring people with records and the impact that locking people out of jobs has on public safety and the economy.  Participants discussed strategies for hiring people with records that can bolster businesses’ bottom lines while also benefitting the local community.  Participants were surveyed at the beginning and end of each Summit event, and the results show that Alameda County businesses are ready for the next step:

  • 57% of participants representing for-profit businesses reported that their companies have hired someone with a criminal record before.
  • By the end of the summit, 94% of participants representing for-profit businesses reported that they were willing to hire or employ qualified job applicants with criminal records at their companies.

The change that Summit participants experienced was profound.  We encourage more businesses to join in sharing and learning about strategies for hiring people with criminal records.

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About the Authors

Michelle Natividad Rodriguez