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The End of Background Checks? Open Hiring Gives Ex-Offenders a Chance

Topics: Current Events
background checks

For over 30 years, Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, NY has been doing something radical during its hiring process: hiring employees without asking for their resume and without conducting the standard background check.

Greyston calls the model Open Hiring. The company says it’s helped make their business a success, as well as giving a chance to candidates who might otherwise be shut out — including those who’ve previously been incarcerated.

“Our recruitment process is based on the principle of non-judgment and radical inclusion,” Mike Brady, president and CEO of Greyston Bakery, told Mashable. “We believe every single person coming through the door of Greyston Bakery has the potential to be successful on the job, so we want to offer everyone an opportunity.”

Now, Greyston hopes to bring Open Hiring to other businesses. It recently launched the Center for Open Hiring at Greyston to provide education and training to other businesses who want to embrace inclusive hiring practices.

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The Problem With Background Checks

The majority of employers conduct background checks at some point during the hiring process, according to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey. Seventy-two percent said that they conduct checks on every employee.

The goal of background checks is to protect the employer from hiring workers who’ve misrepresented their experience and can’t do the job. In addition, employers might seek to avoid negligent hiring lawsuits that can arise when workers don’t have the sufficient skills to create a safe work environment.

Background checks have another potential effect, however. They can freeze out ex-offenders who are fully qualified to do the work.

It’s an issue that affects more American workers than you might think. According to a report from the ACLU, 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. have a criminal record. That’s 70 million potential workers who may be cut off from job opportunities.

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In response to this, some states and cities have enacted “ban-the-box” legislation that prohibits employers from asking applicants about their criminal records during the hiring process (or at least until making a conditional offer of employment).

Now, some employers are voluntarily forgoing criminal background checks or delaying them until the end of the hiring process. Per Mashable, these include small businesses like local restaurant chains and large employers like Starbucks, Target and Walmart.

Inclusive hiring makes financial sense.

“Initially when we started this strategy, it was around bringing light to social justice issues — folks that were formerly incarcerated, dealt with homelessness, or any number of struggles to get into the workforce were never finding employment,” says Brady, in an interview with New York Business Journal.

“Now with unemployment hovering around 4 percent, business leaders are realizing they must be more progressive to access talent pools. We’re getting businesses now that might not be thinking about social justice, but are interested in finding ways to access new talent.”

Tell Us What You Think

Background checks – yea or nay? We want to hear from you. Share your opinion in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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