Labor Shortage: Second Chance Initiatives and Background Checks Series, Part 1

March 05, 2020
By Mary Ann Saenz-Thompson, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, TAC Human Resources Generalist
Risk Management News

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This is part one of a four-part series on second chance initiatives and background checks. This series, rolled out during the next four weeks, will provide a brief overview of current labor shortage conditions, information on recent national legislation and initiatives aimed at reducing recidivism, second chance initiatives, hiring considerations and background checks.

While there are county positions that cannot be filled by someone with a criminal history due to licensure requirements or safety sensitive concerns, an applicant with a criminal history could be considered for some county job vacancies depending on the circumstances of the committed offense and the job vacancy being filled.

Labor shortages

Nationwide, there's been a constant challenge in hiring and retaining employees in certain key positions. According to a recent 2019 survey report from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, filling job vacancies is a problem for state and local governments. Filling many positions, primarily for jobs in the maintenance work/labor, skilled trades, information technology, and policing and dispatch departments has been challenging.

In August 2019, the U.S. unemployment rate of 3.7% marked the eighteenth straight month the unemployment rate remained at or below 4%. The majority of Texas counties have lower unemployment rates than the national average. The Texas Workforce Commission's Report on Texas Growth Occupations-2018, concludes that there will be increased demand in nearly all of the 800 occupations tracked by the Workforce Commission in Texas until the year 2026.

Job vacancies are occurring for a combination of reasons: the low unemployment rate, the lack of applicants, employment market conditions favorable to applicants, compensation and general retention problems due to a combination of factors. It has become easier and quicker for employees to find other jobs, and employees are leaving their current jobs due to job dissatisfaction, higher pay, or for a combination of other reasons. To further complicate the labor shortage issue, there is a demographic shift of experienced baby boomers exiting the workforce at a higher rate, increasing the need to fill newly vacant positions.

To meet these job shortage needs, counties may have to consider other options and diversify their efforts to attract and retain employees who can deliver critical public service. Part of this innovation is to review and revise hiring practices to include consideration of job candidates with criminal history records who are employable for certain county job positions.

Not all criminal histories are equal. There are positions within a county that can be filled by someone with a criminal history and justified by business necessity and specific job requirements. The issue for employers is finding the balance between giving job applicants with a criminal history a chance to be considered based on their qualifications and avoiding exposure to negligent hiring lawsuits.

Legislation & Initiatives: Second Chance Initiatives and Background Checks Series, Part 2

For further information on these or other topics, please contact your assigned TAC HR consultant. It is recommended that you additionally consult your county attorney or other legal counsel. Recommendations and information provided are based on current information in the field of Human Resources. This information is not intended to be, nor should they be construed as, legal advice or legal guidance.