Employer Surveys Regarding Employment of People with Criminal Histories

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Employer Surveys Regarding Employment of People with Criminal Histories

In 2009, twelve employment specialists from the Johnson & Johnson-Dartmouth Community Mental Health Program were nominated, because of their excellent job performance, to participate in a project designed to learn how to assist people who have both criminal histories and serious mental illness. The employment specialists conducted employer surveys in their home states and then met with members of the Dartmouth IPS team to discuss the results of the surveys. This report represents 128 surveys. Employment specialists who participated in this project: Janet Dickerson Washington D.C. Tim Dunn Amelia, Ohio Crystal Ganat Stamford, Connecticut Kevin Kearns Burlington, Vermont Susan Klunk Westminster, Maryland Stephanie Kruger Duluth, Minnesota Sandy Reese Dartmouth PRC Tammy Mitchell Salem, Oregon Tania Morawiec Chicago, Illinois Cathy Pennington Coos Bay, Oregon Kristin Tracy Mentor, Ohio Andrea Wigfield Buffalo, Minnesota Peggy Wolfe Hutchinson, Kansas Sarah Swanson Dartmouth PRC

Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center—Expert Employment Specialist Group 3/10


Executive Summary Employment specialists interviewed128 employers in eight states and the District of Columbia. The survey included a wide range of types of businesses. Sixtythree percent of employers said that they had knowingly hired at least one person with a felony. A significant number of employers said that they could not answer a question about the type of felony, either because they didn’t remember what it was, or felt that the felony type was confidential information. Of those who answered, “drug related offenses” were most common, followed by driving under the influence, theft, and assault. The most common reasons for hiring a person with a felony included: 1) the person had the qualifications to do the job, 2) the person presented well in an interview, 3) the person had a connection to someone who knew the employer— someone who could vouch for the job applicant, and 4) the employer believed that the person had changed his or her life. Employers advised that job applicants with felonies be honest and upfront with employers about their past. Other common themes included: “take responsibility for your actions”, “explain how you have changed”, and “speak directly to the hiring manager or decision maker.” More than half of the employers said that the type of conviction mattered to them. Specifically, they were most concerned about theft and financial crimes, followed by sex offenses, violent crimes and crimes against children. A number of employers recommended that employment specialists think about the type of record a person has when helping the person develop a job goal. For example, a person with a record for theft is less likely to be hired as a cashier. The majority of employers said that they do not have a strict policy about hiring people with felonies, but that they “take it on a case-by-case basis.” Interestingly, some of the employers who said they absolutely do not hire felons, also reported that they don’t do background checks. Seventy-three percent of employers reported that they do some type of background check on all job applicants.

Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center—Expert Employment Specialist Group 3/10


SURVEY QUESTION #1) WHAT IS THE TYPE OF BUSINESS? Bold text indicates employers who have knowingly hired a person with a felony. The number following type of business indicates the total number of employees in the company. Accounting Firm (7) Art Gallery (85) Assisted Living (380) Auto Dealer (12), Auto Dealer (15), Auto Dealer (23), Auto Dealer (121) Auto Parts (4) Auto Services (6), Auto Services (8), Auto Services (15), Auto Services (16) Bank (12), Bank (45) Bicycle Sales and Service (8) Bookstore (10), Bridal Retail (15) Carwash (5) Catering (30), Catering (53) Cell Phone Sales (36) Chamber of Commerce (16) Cleaning Company-offices and homes (13),...
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