Sixty-five million Americans—or one in four adults—have a criminal record. But employers—including major companies like Bank of America, Omni Hotel, and Domino's Pizza—routinely post job ads on Craigslist that explicitly exclude such applicants, according to a new report conducted by the National Employment Law Center (NELP), a labor-affiliated advocacy group.
The practice appears in some cases to be against the law, and at a time of record long-term joblessness, advocates for the poor say it places yet another obstacle in front of people who are working to get their life back on track. In addition, there's widespread agreement that helping those with criminal records to find stable employment is crucial for preventing recidivism and preventing future crime. Indeed, that's the reason that the government runs programs designed to make it easier for ex-offenders to find work.
Perhaps most important, effectively making more than one quarter of the American workforce unemployable may be an unsustainable policy for the economy as whole.
"Candidates must be able to pass: background check (no felonies or misdemeanors)," reads one ad placed by the bailed-out banking giant Bank of America. "Do not apply with any misdemeanors/felonies," warns another. And one study last year found that 92 percent of employers said they screen some or all applicants for criminal records.
Still, the practice looks likely to grow only more common: Thanks to the tight labor market—there are currently five unemployed workers for every job opening—employers can be especially choosy about who they hire. Indeed, the EEOC is currently looking into another problem with similar roots: hiring discrimination against the unemployed.
So make sure that you pay your taxes, don't J-walk and pay you speeding tickets or your next job may not happen.