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Building False Hopes Under the Heading of Justice

Target is making headlines for choosing to remove the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” from their initial job application. They are not alone. Legislators are behind the practice as well, with 10 states and 51 cities passing a law supporting this practice. The goal of Target’s new applications and the updated wording is to prevent discrimination against applicants with past criminal histories. While everyone is debating whether this is wrong or right, KRESS has a different question.

Does this truly offer a positive end result for applicants with a criminal history or does this just offer false hope? 

65 million Americans have a criminal record ranging from minor infractions to incarceration.  Those Americans deserve the chance to get a job just like everyone else, no doubt about it.  But they also deserve the respect of having the hiring qualifications, policies and requirements disclosed early enough in the process so that their time is not wasted and their hopes are not built up unnecessarily.  More importantly, they deserve the right to refute the information found on their background check and the time it will require to address it properly.  This is the part of the equation that really needs to be addressed.  Box or no box, it comes down to clearly defined criteria and proper communication throughout the hiring process.  If you disqualify someone for having a criminal history, they have a right to know and a chance refute the information if it is inaccurate.

What if the information is accurate? The reason you are disqualifying someone needs to be directly related to the job you are filling and the applicant’s ability to fill that position effectively and safely. This is not a new notion. This is how it has always been.  What is new is the right of the applicant to KNOW the WHYS and have a chance to defend themselves if the WHYS are inaccurate.

Even though justice is always well intended, that’s not always how it turns out in practice. By delaying the inclusion of credible criminal information in the application process, you are building up hope as the applicant progresses toward a job. Then, hope is destroyed when the information is found, and it is far more devastating for the applicant. And when you disqualify someone and fail to give them the real reason, you are contributing to a nationwide epidemic of what is being labeled as “discrimination” but what is truly just unfair hiring practices.

If we want a nationwide campaign to make it easier for felons to get hired and eliminate the “discrimination” for criminal history, we should champion a nationwide campaign for a better educated public in all aspects of the hiring process.  We as employers should make sure that our policies and criteria are so sound that they can he heralded from the highest roof top. We as human resource professionals should remind candidates that we are choosing the best candidate for the position and not just the first one who meets the minimum criteria. And we as citizens should teach our children that a job is a privilege, not a right, and that every decision we make in life will have an effect on that privilege.

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