Maryland Fair Chance Business Pledge
What’s the problem?
Every year, thousands of employable Marylanders are denied chances for jobs. With a criminal record, many employers automatically discard a job application—even if applicants have been found not guilty, had charges dismissed, or have successfully completed any sentence and probation. Without gainful employment, even well-qualified and skilled workers may struggle to support themselves, their families, and their community.
One in five potential employees in the Baltimore region have difficulty finding jobs due to their criminal record, according to a recent report. Even though the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently prohibited blanket discrimination, such as a company no-hire policy, the report found that many employers still search online for an applicant’s criminal history and systematically disregard these applicants.
Certainly, this is a problem for our returning citizens. But it is even a greater problem for Maryland’s economy, which is missing potentially skilled workers with strong local ties. Moving these individuals into the workforce also helps keep Marylanders safe: research shows that regular employment is one of the factors that substantially reduces an individual’s risk of repeat criminal behavior. Moreover, these potential workers have a range of skills and talents to share with businesses, and they are often highly motivated to turn their lives around and reward employers with hard work and company loyalty. Marylanders with criminal records, given such a chance, have gone on to become Johns Hopkins medical faculty, IT entrepreneurs, and skilled technicians.
What’s one proposal?
In 2016, the President instituted a national program, seeking to enlist private companies for the “Fair Chance Business Pledge.” While not being pursued by the current administration, this program in 2016 drew the interest and commitment of large and small employers.
Many leading companies, including some of the largest retailers and manufacturers in the country, have stepped up to lead in these efforts by providing employment opportunities through actions such as adopting a “ban the box” policy in which information on a criminal background is not included in employment applications. As Johns Hopkins Hospital, a signer of the pledge, notes, “The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System’s (JHHS) practice of providing access and opportunity to the returning citizens of Baltimore is not a charitable endeavor, but a strategic part of the way we conduct our business. We are not just an organization that conducts business in Baltimore, but an integral part of the community — interwoven and connected for 126 years and counting.”
Delaying questions about criminal history until later in the hiring process, employers can provide applicants with a fair chance to get their foot in the door and be considered based on their qualifications. Given access to training and technology, individuals with a criminal record again can support their families and communities. Employers who hire these applicants also may qualify for federal tax incentives and no-cost bonding.
The Greater Baltimore Committee, as the leading business advocacy organization in the Greater Baltimore area, represents more than 500 businesses, nonprofits, foundations and leading educational and civic institutions. As an influential voice on matters of public policy, business issues, job promotion, and economic growth in the region and the state, GBC is ideally positioned to gather leaders of business and government for a movement to promote a “Maryland Fair Chance Business Pledge.”
Will this work?
Over 300 companies nationwide, both large and small, signed the President’s 2016 “Fair Chance Business Pledge.” New York’s governor, in July 2017, launched a similar, even stronger initiative, the “Work for Success (WFS) Pledge,” that encourages businesses to hire qualified individuals with criminal convictions.
Many WFS participants also operate in Maryland including Target, Staples, PepsiCo, Purdue Farms, and Cintas. The Pledge provides an opportunity for companies to publicly showcase their company’s practice of giving applicants a level playing field in securing employment. It does not require employers to hire any particular individual or numbers of individuals but to conduct, as necessary, individualized assessments of whether a conviction affects a person’s suitability for the job.
In New York, the Governor announced that over 14,000 businesses have hired over 18,000 well-qualified, formerly-incarcerated individuals through New York’s Work for Success program. The program connects individuals with criminal convictions with jobs through the New York State Department of Labor’s job bank, at no cost to the listing businesses or the individual job-seeker.
Maryland can match the progress made by New York state. Together, we can help Marylanders find good jobs, improve public safety, and grow our state economy.
- Take the Fair Chance Pledge. At its heart, America is a nation of second chances. That’s why the White House has called on businesses and higher education institutions to invest in their communities and eliminate unnecessary hiring barriers for individuals with criminal records.
- Work for Success Employer Pledge. https://www.ny.gov/content/work-success-employer-pledge
- Work For Success: Saving your business time and money. https://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/factsheets/pdfs/p455.pdf
- Barriers to Employment Opportunities in the Baltimore Region. http://www.cphabaltimore.org/2014/06/barriers-to-employment-criminal-records/
- Reentry Resources by County – Department of Justice
- Maryland Reentry Programs and Assistance
- Maryland Re-entry Initiative (MRI)
Many other resources can be found at: http://www.ma4jr.org/returning-citizens/