Johnny C. Taylor Jr.
| Special to USA TODAYJohnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.Question: I’m a hiring manager at a medium-sized business. The hiring committee and I are very impressed with one candidate, but this person has a criminal record. How should I approach this? I think this person would be a great fit. – AnonymousJohnny C. Taylor Jr.: I applaud your willingness to employ someone with a past criminal conviction, but I also understand your hesitancy. However, individuals with a conviction need not be painted with a broad brush and each case deserves its own examination. People who have made mistakes and paid the penalty deserve a fair chance to bring their much-needed skills back into the workplace. When done right they can represent a valuable resource for untapped talent.As with any hiring candidate, you must do your due diligence in performing appropriate background checks and following proper guidance. For those with a criminal conviction, you have a few approaches available to you.Let’s first look at any state regulations about using criminal records in employment decisions. State regulations outline guidance on the use of arrests and convictions for employment decisions. Many states also have “ban-the-box” regulations, which prohibit employers in 33 states and more than 150 cities and counties from asking criminal-history questions from employment applications, so these individuals are assessed based on their job qualifications first. So, depending on where your business operates applicable regulations may vary.The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s “green factors” can provide insight on determining if a candidate’s criminal history may negatively impact their work or the safety of others in your organization. The green factors consider the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct, time that has passed since the incident or completion of the sentence, and the nature of the job held or sought.You aren’t alone in your thinking. Research has revealed that 85% of people report willingness to work with someone with a conviction. Additionally, 82% of hiring managers have shared that the quality of workers with criminal convictions is as high or higher than that for workers without records.I’ll say this: It is important to provide avenues for the convicted and formerly incarcerated to successfully reenter society after they have paid their debt. It benefits your organization to find and utilize hidden talent. Creating better opportunities for these deserving individuals provides them with better options to contribute positively to society.None of us should be judged solely on a bad choice we’ve made or permanently penalized for it. So, don’t be deterred by the criminal history. Your hesitancy should encourage you to dig deeper to understand this candidate fully. It could potentially be a win for your organization, that individual and society-at-large.Workplace culture: Can I be fired for not fitting in? Ask HRCOVID-19: As offices reopen, can I ask for a flexible work schedule? Ask HRQ: The CEO hired his eldest son as a president for our company. His son hardly comes to work and is always on (so-called) business trips. He even used a company credit card to pay for personal expenses. I know because I am from accounting. What can I do to bring attention to this? – AnonymousTaylor Great question but a difficult situation! While your outrage may be warranted, I encourage you to maintain your objectivity and avoid personal judgment of the circumstances or individuals involved as you navigate this challenge. Keep in mind, the expenses may have a business relation that you are unaware of or it may be a simple misunderstanding by the president. You will first want to carefully reexamine company policy and procedures. If your company has a policy, verify if it clearly outlines who needs to approve it and what is and isn’t reimbursable. Typically, the request for reimbursement could be denied if guidelines were not followed. The president may not be aware of the policy’s specifics so if you reject the request be sure to provide guidance. If no policy exists, this could be a good time for HR or management to draft one.From there, any accounting irregularities with business expenses should be communicated to top-level executives as it is in the best interest of the organization. Given the level of his position and nature of the relationship with the CEO, it is prudent to bring your manager or the chief financial officer in the loop. Be prepared to submit all the facts including supporting documentation and reference material. Focus your concerns on the potential negative impact this activity may present to the company in terms of financial and brand liability, employee morale and overall reputation. Advise of any criminal liability this practice might trigger.Ideally, the manager or CFO will communicate directly with the president regarding permitted expense reimbursement guidelines. If directed by your manager or CFO to reimburse the expense, regardless of whether it meets tax guidelines, you can request that one of them execute the approval. At this point, I encourage you to speak with Human Resources about the situation. It may also be appropriate to involve the company’s attorneys in any discussions, in part to protect yourself against future retaliation or lawsuits.Ultimately, if the organization as a whole is complicit in unethical practices you may be better off seeking alternative employment. Going forward, maintain an awareness of what is in the best interest for of yourself and the organizations you join, and you’ll always know when to take a different path. Good Luck.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.