You may be someone who thinks everyone deserves a second chance, no matter how big of a mistake they may have made. But should you take that softhearted attitude into your business? Hiring someone with a criminal background could do wonders in helping someone getting back on their feet after being incarcerated, but it could also have some consequences for your small business. Read on to learn about the things you should consider before hiring an ex-con to work at your small business.
Potential Hires Should be Considered on a Case-by-Case Basis
Any applicant with a criminal record that comes through your doors looking for employment should be considered individually. Actually, not doing so could be considered discriminatory, and could subject your company to a lawsuit.
In most instances, companies shouldn’t have blanket policies about not hiring ex-felons. According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects individuals from discrimination in the workplace, you should look at the following three factors when considering an ex-felon for a position in your company:
- The nature and gravity of the offense or conduct
- The time that has passed since the offense or conduct and/or completion of the sentence
- The nature of the job held or sought
If a good amount of time has passed since the individual was convicted, and if the crime was in no way related to the type of work he or she will be performing at your company, the conviction itself should not be a disqualifying factor. However, if the crime was committed recently, and is related to the job, you should pass on the applicant, no matter how badly you want to help the person get back on his or her feet. For example, you shouldn’t hire someone who has been convicted of statutory rape to work with children, or someone with a history of drug convictions to work in your pharmacy.
Liability Risks When Hiring Ex-Cons
If you knowingly hire someone with a criminal record, who then commits a crime while on the job, you and/or your business can be held liable for any damages based on what’s called “negligent hiring.” Make sure you always do your due diligence when hiring employees, especially ones who will be in direct contact with the public. Conduct a criminal background check, and if an applicant’s past crime(s) are even remotely related to the type of work they will be doing, don’t take the chance!
Chris Snow, Owner of Fallbrook Local Locksmith in Fallbrook, California commented, “If there’s any industry that should require criminal background checks, in my opinion, it’s the locksmith industry. Business owners who are thinking about hiring an ex-felon should be very cautious and think very carefully about the potential consequences.”
Snow continued, “I understand that not every felon is a danger to homeowners, and I’m all for giving people who have paid their debt to society a second chance, but in a profession where you have access to the security systems of people’s homes, someone with a criminal record may not be the best suited. The liability concerns are just too great. But even so, there are many ex-felons working as locksmiths, so obviously not all owners of locksmith companies share my opinion.”
Benefits of Hiring Ex-Felons
There are not only risks to consider before hiring a convicted felon, there are also some benefits. First, there is the intangible benefit of helping people who are trying to make an honest living, despite their past. Many ex-cons find it difficult to secure employment, especially employment that pays a living wage. Giving someone an employment opportunity could be the boost they need to get their life going in a positive direction.
Second, you may have the opportunity to hire someone who is already trained to work in your industry. Many correctional institutions have job training programs, and if you hire someone who has gone through one of them, it can greatly reduce training time and expenses, and provide you with an employee who can hit the ground running on day one. There are also many nonprofit job training programs across the country that focus on ex-felons. See if there’s one in your area and if they offer training in the skills you are looking for in an employee.
Third, the federal government offers tax credits for businesses hiring individuals with “significant barriers to employment” such as ex-felons. Check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s website for more information about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to see if your business could qualify for federal tax credits by hiring ex-felons.
Ultimately, only you can decide if hiring an ex-felon is a good idea for your small business or not. However, the decision may not always be clear cut. If you have questions about hiring an applicant with a criminal record, consult an attorney who is well versed in employment law. You don’t want your company to be found in violation of Title VII, but you also don’t want to be held liable should you hire someone with a criminal record who then commits a crime while in your employment. Either situation could result in a very expensive lawsuit.