Ex-felons get a raw deal when it comes to employment. Despite the fact that approximately 70 million (nearly one in three) Americans have a criminal record, it can present a difficult barrier to overcome in a job search. According to one study, previously incarcerated workers are 15% to 30% less likely to find a job upon release, and the U.S. economy misses out on an estimated $60 billion annually due to the loss of labor.
But a new White House initiative aims to give ex-felons a fairer shake in the job market, and a slew of major corporations are getting on board. Called the Fair Chance Business Pledge, the initiative counts Facebook (FB), Starbucks (SBUX), American Airlines Group (AAL) and many others among its signees.
“A lot of time, [a] record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society—even if you’ve already paid your debt to society,” President Obama said in a speech at Rutgers College last November. “It means millions of Americans have difficulty even getting their foot in the door to try to get a job, much less actually hang on to that job. That’s bad for not only those individuals, it’s bad for our economy.”
Companies that sign the pledge commit to help level the playing field by “banning the box”—specifically referring to the check box on job applications that asks whether the applicant has been convicted of a felony—and agreeing to hold any questions about an applicant’s criminal record until they’re further along in the hiring process. This may seem like a small change, but it can have a significant effect on how a candidate is perceived—and signees hope it will help employers see a criminal record in the full context of one’s personal background and experience as a worker.
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Many of the employers getting behind the initiative are going a step further. Google (GOOGL) hopes it can get other tech companies interested in banning the box, while PepsiCo (PEP) will work with community advocacy groups to provide job trainings for formerly incarcerated job seekers. Uber is even realigning its screening process so applicants with minor, nonviolent convictions get a fair shake—and will refer the applicants it passes on to a mentorship and job placement program.
Here’s a full list of the companies who have signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge:
The Coca-Cola Company
The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System
Koch Industries and Georgia-Pacific
Under Armour and Plank Industries
This piece previously appeared on Monster.com.