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Taking Action Removing Barriers


									        Taking Action:
Removing Barriers to Employment

               MPRI Workforce
               Development Meeting
               September 20, 2007
Employment Difficulties Stem from
Both “Internal” and “External” Factors

   Internal factors: limited job skills,
    poor work history, alcohol/drug
    abuse issues, mental health issues,
   External factors: legal barriers,
    social factors, and economic
    conditions that limit employment
Need to Address both Internal and
External Factors

   Occupational training, work readiness, and
    similar programs are critical for addressing
    internal factors.
   But we must also address external factors, or
    we’ll have only limited success.
   Unless we change the structural framework
    in which people with records seek
    employment, even motivated, job-ready
    candidates will have difficulty finding jobs.
Major External Barriers: Laws
Restricting Employment of People with

   Huge number of laws and policies that prohibit or
    limit the hiring of people with records in many
    sectors of the economy.
   Restrictions particularly common in healthcare,
    transportation, childcare, education, government
    jobs, licensed jobs, military, and security-related
    fields (e.g. security guard).
   Unclear how many jobs are affected, but by some
    estimates may be as many as 1/3 of jobs.
   Restrictions inconsistent: person with a felony
    conviction can be a lawyer but not a nurse aid.
Major External Barriers: Employer
Unwillingness to Hire People with

   Some studies suggest that 2/3 of
    employers will not knowingly hire
    a person with a record.
   Employers are concerned about
    workplace violence/theft,
    negligent hiring lawsuits,
    insurance rates, etc.
Major External Barriers: Heightened
Use of Background Checks

   Vast increase in background checking in
    recent years: Between 1996 and 2003,
    number of employers doing checks rose from
    51% to 80%.
   Individuals who previously got jobs without
    going through a background check, are now
    undergoing checks, making it much more
    likely that their applications will be rejected.
Major External Barriers: Situational

   Parolees may be job-ready and motivated,
    but still be confronted with situational
   Huge child support arrearages that accrue
    while the person is in prison can result in
    garnishments of 50-65% of the a person’s
   Lack of a driver’s license can prevent
Report of the Working Group on

   State-wide policy group that developed a
    series of recommendations on addressing
    structural barriers to employment.
   Full report available on website.
Recommendation: Review and Modify
Statutory and Administrative Barriers
to Employment

   Conduct a comprehensive review of such barriers in
    MI so that we can determine the extent to which
    such barriers apply.
   Eliminate or modify statutory or administrative
    barriers that created unjustified barriers to
    –   Some restrictions are appropriate.
    –   But “no-felon” barriers and life-time restrictions are almost
        always overbroad.
    –   Impose restrictions only where justified by public safety.
Recommendation: Promote
Individualized Decision-Making Where
Occupational Restrictions are Imposed

   Where statutory or administrative barriers
    exist, provide for a case-by-case exemption
    or waiver process that allows people with
    records to demonstrate their fitness for
   Example: Florida and Illinois grant 70% and
    72%, respectively, of exemption requests by
    former offenders who would otherwise be
    prohibited from working in long-term care.
Recommendation: Address Employer
Concerns by Simplifying, Publicizing,
and Enhancing Employer Incentives

   Publicize existing incentives (e.g. bonding,
    federal tax credits) for hiring people with
    records, and make them easier to use.
   Consider creating state tax credits or offering
    bid discounts on state contracts for
    employers who hire people with records.
Recommendation: Address Employer
Concerns by Removing Disincentives
to Hiring People with Records

   Ask DLEG’s Office of Financial and
    Insurance Services to review insurance
    practices and make recommendations for
    any reforms needed to promote employment
    of people with records.
   Consider immunizing employers who
    responsibly hire people with records from
    negligent hiring lawsuits.
Recommendation: Make Employers
Aware that “No-Felon” Policies May
Violate Federal Anti-Discrimination Law

   Because of their disparate impact on people
    of color, employer policies that prohibit the
    hiring of felons may violate federal anti-
    discrimination laws.
   Work with the MDCR and EEOC to publicize
    and enforce these laws.
   Work with employers and industry
    associations to develop model policies.
Recommendation: Require Criminal
Records to be Reviewed at End, not
Beginning of Hiring Process

   To ensure that people with records are considered
    for employment, rather than summarily rejected,
    convictions should be considered at the end of the
    hiring process, not the beginning.
   This allows for consideration of whether a conviction
    is relevant, without dooming the applicant from the
   This approach has been adopted in a number of
    major U.S. cities.
   Could be applied to state employment, as well as
    state contractors.
Recommendation: Modify Criminal
Record Reporting to Promote

   Vast increase in reporting means that many more employers are
    looking at records and many more companies are producing them.
   Employers often don’t know how to read records.
   Because of the likelihood of employer misunderstanding, reports
    should include only conviction information, not arrest and charge data.
   Consider automatically sealing arrest information that does not result
    in conviction.
   Consider whether some conviction information should drop off after a
    period of time.
     –   Studies show that after 7 years of crime-free behavior, a former offender
         has virtually the same likelihood of committing new offense as person with
         no record.
Recommendation: Expand Access to

   Expungements are a powerful mechanism to free
    people from the lifelong consequences of having a
    record: makes the record unavailable to the public.
   Only individuals with one conviction are eligible, so
    most people with records can’t get them.
   Expanding access to expungement would
    significantly improve employment opportunities for
    former offenders who have demonstrated
Recommendation: Provide a Documented
Means for Former Offenders to Demonstrate
Rehabilitation or Employability

   Individuals who have been rehabilitated but
    can’t get expungements need a way to
    demonstrate that on their records.
   MI, like some other states, could offer
    “certificates of rehabilitation” or “certificates
    of employability.” These would not eliminate
    the conviction (like expungement), but would
    lift civil consequences and help former
    offenders demonstrate rehabilitation.
Recommendation: Ensure Child
Support Arrears don’t Become a
Disincentive to Lawful Employment

   DOC and FOC should work together to
    ensure that payments are suspended upon
   Michigan could waive child support
    arrearages owed to state that accumulate
    during incarceration.
Recommendation: Ensure Former
Offenders can Get a Driver’s License

   If individuals have lost their licenses due to
    fines (as opposed to unsafe/drunken driving),
    payment plans should be available to enable
    those individuals to drive, while paying off
    their debt.
   Another option is to allow such individuals to
    get restricted licenses to get to work.
Recommendation: Ensure Parolees
have Valid ID at the Time of Release

   This issue is being worked on between DOC
    and the Secretary of State.
   Even once the Secretary of State starts
    accepting DOC ID, there is still much work to
    be done in ensuring that prisoners are
    released with all the documents they need in
    order to get ID.
Recommendation: Adjust reporting
requirements for individuals who work
during the day

   To the extent this isn’t already happening, we
    need to make sure that reporting
    requirements do not interfere with
Recommendation: Review
Restrictions Placed on Sex Offenders

   Individuals with sex offenses are some of the
    most difficult to employ.
   They are also subject to numerous laws and
    policies, as well as parole conditions, that
    further restrict their employability.
   Those restrictions should be reviewed to see
    if they are warranted, and also whether
    individual exemptions should be available.
Tools to Help Address External

   Hopefully, we can remove some of
    these barriers.
   The first step is to be aware of
    structural barriers, so that we can
    properly advise clients about what
    their rights and obligations are.
   Extensive materials on employment
    issues affecting people with records
    are available on our website:

       Miriam Aukerman
      Reentry Law Project
 Legal Aid of Western Michigan
          89 Ionia NW
    Grand Rapids, MI 49503
     616-774-0672 ext. 114

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