When hiring employees, companies often strive to build a workforce that reflects their values, promotes diversity, and supports community integration. One often-overlooked demographic in the hiring process is re-entering citizens, particularly those with a history of sex offenses. While this may raise concerns for some, it’s essential to consider the merits of providing second chances to individuals who have served their time and are working towards rehabilitation.
However, time and time again, we hear stories of individuals applying for jobs – including those that advertise they hire felons – who get to the final stage of the interview process, a background check is run, and the applicant is told, “If your charge was drugs or theft we could overlook it, but you’re a ‘sex offender’ so yeah, no.”
In July 2018, Ashley was charged with two felony and one misdemeanor crime and was then classified as a Tier 2 “Sex Offender” and placed on the Pennsylvania Megan’s Law List for 25 years. Because her offense was directly linked to a position at her job, she lost that job and returned to a previous employer, working minimum-wage retail job. Due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, she lost that job and struggled to find new employment in similar retail positions for several months.
“I cannot say (for sure) why I didn’t get a position,” she recalls, “but at the time, I was confident it was related to my conviction.”
Finally, a friend with connections to a local restaurant helped her get a job there.
Since July 2018, Ashley and her son have relied on Medicaid, SNAP Benefits, and other public assistance from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, as well as financial support from her family to survive.
In January 2021, Ashley sought an opportunity to begin a program to get a Master’s Degree in Psychology with the hope of working with offenders, re-entrants, etc. She was accepted, and thrived in her studies. Just a few months shy of graduation, she began to apply for positions and was excited to land an interview with an agency doing law enforcement diversion and case management at a crisis level to adults involved with the police who needed to find stability (housing, employment, treatment, rehab, etc.) rather than face arrest, criminal charges, or jail. Ashley’s her education, job history, and life experience uniquely qualified her for this job. The hiring agency’s statement, “Individuals with personal involvement in the criminal justice system to encouraged to apply,” provided hope & encouragement.
And so she did. She went through three interviews, was open about my involvement with the county’s criminal court system (without disclosing her specific case details), and was offered the full-time position.
Later that afternoon, Ashley received a call from HR to congratulate me and discuss onboarding, and then they asked for my clearances.
“I asked why those were necessary as it was a ‘second chance job,’ and was told by human resources that it was ‘part of the process,’ so I emailed the program director to ask if I would be able to share more specific information related to my charges, and she said yes,” Ashley recalls. “I shared very briefly the nature of the charges and my status as a Megan’s Law registrant, and then I never heard from her again.”
HR called almost immediately to rescind the offer.
Even though the position was working exclusively with adults, the agency told her that it has “other community-based programs that include families,” so it refused to hire someone with a sex offense background.
“It has been difficult to build the courage to try again. I’m afraid to apply and be let down again,” Ashley shared. “I’m afraid to leave a job that accepts me and not be able to return if I need to.”
What happens next?
Thousands of re-entrants with sexual offenses share Ashley’s story. That’s why PARSOL has partnered with UntappedSolutions, (formerly ConConnect), to provide access to their rapidly-growing list of job postings from companies that hire persons with sex offenses. PARSOL’s job board and helpful information, including employer resources, can be found online at the PARSOL Job Resources Page.