- Most U.S. adults in a survey by staffing firm Kelly Services said they support efforts to end what they identified as discriminatory hiring practices, including those that screen out applicants who have committed certain criminal offenses.
- For instance, 64% of respondents said nonviolent mistakes should not automatically disqualify job candidates from being able to find work, while 71% said employers should eliminate or reduce policies that automatically reject candidates with minor, nonviolent criminal offenses. Kelly Services surveyed more than 1,000 adults.
- Additionally, 76% of respondents were more likely to support businesses that are committed to removing discriminatory hiring barriers, the firm said.
The push to create opportunities for formerly incarcerated people had gained momentum in the years leading up to 2020. Advocates have sought to do so in a number of ways, including by enacting "ban the box" legislation prohibiting employers from inquiring about certain criminal history on job applications.
Despite progress, workforce re-entry support for incarcerated people lagged during the initial months of the pandemic, guests of a National Skills Coalition podcast said in April 2020. One year later, this subpopulation of the U.S. workforce continues to face challenges including receiving certain transition services, PBS NewsHour reported last month.
Those challenges have spurred some organizations to step up and provide support. In November 2020, the National Black Chamber of Commerce launched a plan to educate small businesses about training programs for formerly incarcerated people. And prior to the pandemic in 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor issued more than $2 million in grants as part of an ongoing program to assist job seekers with criminal records in gaining employment.
Employers that remove barriers to those who have a criminal history can "significantly increase their talent pool, reduce turnover rates, improve diversity, equity and inclusion, and ultimately save money," Peter Quigley, president and CEO of Kelly Services, said in the company’s statement.
Kelly Services noted that it updated its own policy pertaining to marijuana convictions with the aim of providing greater employment access to those with low-level criminal offenses.
Other employers have experimented with similar policies. Retailer The Body Shop implemented an "open hiring" model in 2020 for certain in-store positions in which it did not ask applicants to undergo a drug screening or background check.