Michigan Reentry Law Wiki

Information for Employers About Hiring an Ex-Offender

From Reentry

June 2007


Persons who have served time in jail or prison are faced with challenges when returning to their communities. Persons who are unemployed are more likely to fail and return to prison than those who are employed. When an ex-offender becomes a tax-paying citizen and a partner in the community, we all benefit.

Question: Why would an employer hire an ex-offender when there are so many other unemployed people available?

Many ex-offenders are under supervision of a probation or parole officer who is a contact person and resource for the employer. The officer can assist with job retention and success by addressing obstacles to employment such as transportation or counseling. Many ex-offenders are required to undergo random drug testing. Through referral, ex-offenders can have access to job readiness and skills training. Moreover, because former offenders typically have difficulty finding work, they are often very loyal employees once hired.

The Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit provides up to $4000 in credits for hiring felons convicted or released within one year of hire. Specifics of this program are available at www.michigan.gov/uia.

The Federal Bonding Program provides employers with insurance coverage at no cost to the employer as an incentive to hire hard to place applicants such as ex-offenders. The fidelity bond can be requested from any Michigan Works! Service Center. Visit www. michiganworks.org for locations or call Michigan's bonding coordinator at 313-456-3160.

Question: Is it Legal to Have a Blanket Policy Prohibiting the Employment of People with Criminal Records?

In most cases, no. Because policies prohibiting the employment of people with records have an adverse impact on people of color, such policies may violate anti-discrimination laws. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommends that, to ensure compliance with these laws, employers consider the nature and gravity of the offense; the time that has passed; and the nature of the job before disqualifying an individual from employment based on his or her criminal record.

Question: How does an employer assess someone's criminal history?

The definition of a felony offense is a crime that could be punished by more than a year in prison. A misdemeanor is a crime that could be punished by a year or less in prison. In actuality, circumstances surrounding the crime or the offender may lead to sentences that are more severe for some misdemeanors than for some felonies. Many persons serve no imprisonment at all for a first time felony conviction.

Assessing a conviction to make a reasoned judgment about risk is fairly simple. It involves obtaining the criminal history and then checking it against some simple criteria. Asking the applicant about his or her criminal history will provide an employer with information about their attitude and acceptance of responsibility. It would be important to determine circumstances such as alcohol or drug use that may have contributed to the offense and how the applicant has addressed those issues.

Criminal histories of applicants can be retrieved from a probation or parole officer if the applicant will consent to that disclosure. The prospective applicant should be able to provide an employer with the name and phone number of their supervising officer. If the applicant is not under community supervision, convictions from the state of Michigan can be obtained from the Michigan State Police through the Internet at www. Michigan.gov. Select the Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT). For a fee of $10.00, the Michigan Criminal history is displayed. Reading the resulting criminal history can be difficult for the layperson. This website provides a tutorial with how to read the various entries on a criminal history report. Click on How to Use ICHAT for the tutorial. The website also has other information of interest to employers, as well as a link to the sex offender registry where employers can check to see if the applicant is a registered sex offender. Question: Should I be concerned about Negligent Hiring Lawsuits?

If you are hiring an ex-offender for a position that does not involve contact with the public – such as factory or production work – negligent hiring is generally not an issue. Even if the position does involve contact with the public, the courts have made clear that the mere fact that an employee has a criminal record does not establish a claim for negligent hiring.

Question: What Questions Should I ask about a Prospective Employee's criminal history?

The questions to ask with regard to the person's criminal history are simple.

1. What is the relevance of the offense(s) to the job being applied for?

2. How long ago did the offense(s) occur? Note: Research has shown that after seven years of law-abiding behavior, an individual with a criminal record has essentially the same risk of committing a new offense as a person who does not have a criminal record.

3. How many times has the person offended?

4. What is the nature and seriousness of the offense(s)?

5. What is the background to the offenses (circumstances such as drug dependency, homelessness, etc.)?

6. Were the offenses work related?

7. What is the person's attitude regarding the offense?

8. What has the person done since being convicted of the offense (treatment, education, skills training, volunteer work, etc.)?

The employer's assessment of the offense and the applicant can lead to an ex-offender finding the right job that will assist in his or her effort to become a self sufficient law abiding citizen. It is an effort worth making to better our community.