There are many reasons why it’s difficult to find a job as a felon in the United States.
The most obvious is that employers are wary of hiring convicted felons. They may believe the felon is dishonest or looking for an opportunity to re-offend.
Business owners also worry about the possibility that hiring a felon will damage their company’s reputation, leading to the loss of business.
Then, there is the stereotype: “Once a felon, always a felon”.
In many cases, employers judge a candidate as soon as they hear about their offending history, immediately biasing the hiring process against them in the process.
It’s likely this difficulty in reintegrating into society that leads to so much recidivism in the United States.
Did you know? Recidivism is the term used to describe when a felon reoffends and is sent back to prison. According to Harvard Politics, approximately 66% of former prisoners are rearrested within three years of their release. Over 50% end up back in prison.
If you are a felon, this is disheartening news. However, the hope of finding a job is not lost.
There is one state that stands above the others as being the best one for felons searching for jobs.
California Is The Best State For Felons
The “Golden State” is the best state for felons to live in overall. However, its also the Number # 1 choice for felons searching for a job for a simple reason. The state has laws that place a seven-year limit on the background checks employers can use when hiring.
In other words, if your felony occurred over seven years ago, it will not affect your standing with a potential employer.
This law applies regardless of the role of the salary considerations. As such, there is no salary cap for felons in California. You can apply for, and receive a job in, a high-paying field without an employer knowing about your felony as long as it occurred over seven years ago.
Further to this, California also maintains several “re-entry” programs, which are initiatives designed to help former felons get back into work.
Additionally, California has a “Ban the Box” law in place.
What Is A Ban the Box Law?
A Ban the Box law prevents an employer from inquiring into a candidate’s criminal history until they’ve made a conditional employment offer. Currently, 37 states institute Ban the Box laws. Their purpose is to ensure an employer considers a candidate based on their merits, rather than their criminal history.
For example, a felon may have all of the attributes and qualifications that the employer is looking for. However, if that employer discovers the applicant’s felony record before speaking to them, the employment process becomes biased.
With Ban the Box, the employer does not learn about a candidate’s felonies until they’ve already made an offer to hire them. As such, the employer faces a more difficult decision knowing that the person they might have passed over before is actually the type of person they wish to hire.
How Does Ban The Box Work In California?
First, it’s important to note that a Californian employer cannot ask about a candidate’s criminal history during a job interview. They also cannot ask at any point before they make a conditional offer of employment.
Any felon who is asked these types of questions before receiving the offer has the right to refuse to answer and to report the employer in question.
However, let’s assume a felon has received a conditional offer and the employer has now learned about their previous conviction. How does Ban the Box work in these situations?
The employer cannot immediately dismiss the candidate from the process upon learning about their conviction. Instead, the employer is obligated to conduct an individualized assessment of the candidate under the Fair Employment and Housing Act 12952, also known as the “Fair Chance Act”.
Did You Know? Any public or private employer that has at least five employees must abide by the Fair Chance Act. However, the law does not apply to certain roles in the farm labor industry, health care sector, and state criminal justice agencies.
How Does An Individualized Assessment Work?
An individualized assessment challenges the employer to consider several factors when choosing whether to hire a felon. These include:
-The nature of the former felon’s offense.
-The role the felon wishes to work in.
-The amount of time that has passed since the felon committed their offense and completed their sentence.
-Whether the candidate’s felony history will have an adverse or direct relationship with the duties of their role.
Employers are not compelled to put the results of their individualized assessments in writing.
Still, the purpose of this assessment is to force employers to consider how much of an effect somebody’s felony history will realistically have on their ability to work.
If the employer chooses to disqualify a candidate based on the individualized assessment, the candidate has to right to respond. Furthermore, the potential employer must explain this right to respond before making the decision final.
Upon receiving a disqualification notice, the applicant has a minimum of five business days to respond to the employer’s decision. The exact timeframe is specified in the employer’s disqualification notice, though it can be no less than five business days.
The applicant can use this period to inform the employer of any inaccuracies in their conviction history. They can also submit evidence to demonstrate any inaccuracies for the employer’s consideration.
If the employer still chooses to disqualify the candidate because of their felony history, they must do so in writing. The felon should receive a notice that informs them of the following:
The final decision on their application.
Any procedures the employer has in place for appealing the decision.
The candidate’s right to file a complaint via the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
What Happens If A Californian Company Breaks Ban The Box Rules?
If somebody suspects that an employer has not followed California’s Ban the Box laws, they have the right to file a complaint or lawsuit against the employer. Those filing lawsuits may seek monetary compensation of equitable relief.
If the felon can prove they’ve suffered harassment related to their past convictions or employment discrimination, they can also seek costs for bringing the lawsuit to court.
Did you know? The DFEH conducted an examination of online job advertisements in 2021. It found that approximately 500 listings contained statements that broke Ban the Box laws.
The DFEH contacted each of these employers to ask them to remove the offending posts. You can also report an employer to the DFEH if you find a job posting containing phrases like “must have a clean record”.
What Are The Best Felon Friendly Jobs In California To Apply For?
Under Californian law, there is no restriction on the types of jobs a felon can apply for. As such, the answer to this question comes down to how the felon believes their conviction will be considered once the employer is in a position to examine their history.
Still, several industries are more open to felons than others.
Industry No. 1 – Truck Driving
Many of California’s trucking companies accept applicants with felonies in their conviction histories. A small list of examples includes US Express, Prime, Inc. Tyson Foods, and Navajo Express, though there are plenty of others.
In some cases, these companies provide training, though others require you to have at least six months of experience.
Typically, these truck driving jobs require the following in a candidate:
-Possession of a CDL license is ideal, though not always required. If the company offers CDL license training, it may help the candidate to obtain their license.
-Willingness to train if the candidate does not have a trucking license.
-A consistent employment record.
-No convictions for reckless driving.
Trucking companies are also wary of those who have multiple Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) convictions.
However, a single conviction, particularly one that occurred several years ago, should not prevent you from getting a job as a truck driver.
Industry No. 2 – Rubber
In October 2021, the Los Angeles Times wrote a story about a felon named Thomas Urioste. Recently released after serving 10 years in federal prison, Thomas had managed to get a job with U.S. Rubber.
In the article, he talks about how the company raised his salary to $17 per hour after six months and trusted him with the use of expensive machinery.
Thomas’s story is not an isolated event.
Many employers in the rubber industry have found themselves looking for more people during the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, many rubber companies are open to hiring felons. For example, approximately 50% of the employees at U.S. Rubber Recycling are former felons.
Industry No. 3 – Car Sales
In California, convicted felons may still apply for a dealership license to work in the vehicle sales industry. However, there are conditions attached, mostly related to the nature of the applicant’s conviction.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires all applicants to disclose any felony or misdemeanor convictions that happened in the last 10 years. However, candidates do not need to tell the DMV about traffic offenses, including DUI and DWIs.
Upon learning about a candidate’s conviction, the DMV rates it on a scale of A to C. The rating determines the type of dealership license the candidate can apply for and how long they must wait before applying.
Those classed in the C category can apply for a license one year after they have completed their sentences. For the B category, this waiting period extends to three years. Those rated as Class A felons must wait 5.5 years, after which they can apply for a probationary license.
California Is The Best Choice for Felons To Find Jobs
While no state is perfect for felons seeking employment, California offers more opportunities than any other. In addition to its seven-year rule on background checks, California’s Ban the Box laws allow felons to be considered on their merits rather than their convictions.
These same laws also provide felons with recourse should they believe they’re unfairly passed over for employment.
California also has several industries that are open to those with felony convictions.
A felon will likely find it easier to find a job that has real career prospects in California, especially as the state allows felons to apply for the vast majority of jobs.