In the United States, approximately 100 million people have criminal records, which create significant barriers to finding stable and well-paid work. Previous research suggests that criminal records impact employment outcomes through employers' hiring practices and job seekers' job search behavior. To improve the employment prospects of individuals with criminal records, various interventions, including Fair Chance policies, have been implemented. Fair Chance policies prohibit employers from asking about an applicant's criminal history or conducting a background check during the early stages of the job search.
In a collaborative effort between the USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation, LeadersUp, and Chrysalis, the Accelerating Fair Chance Hiring Among Los Angeles Employers project aimed to address unemployment among justice-involved youth by engaging employers to develop employer-led solutions. One solution identified was the incorporation of inclusive language in job postings and proactive encouragement for justice-involved individuals to apply. In this project, the Price Center for Social Innovation, LeadersUp, and Chrysalis partnered to pilot the implementation of a Fair Chance statement on Chrysalis' job postings.
Motivated by this body of research, the USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation and LeadersUp conducted Accelerating Fair Chance Hiring Among Los Angeles Employers, a project that sought to address unemployment among justice-involved youth by engaging employers to develop employer-led solutions.
This project sought to expand on our initial research by piloting and scaling one of our Fair Chance Employment innovations in Los Angeles County in partnership with Chrysalis. The innovation selected was incorporating a Fair Chance statement in the hiring process of Chrysalis and assessing the impact of the Fair Chance statement in Chrysalis' job postings for prospective staff applicants.
Below is some additional background used to support and inform the learnings of this project:
Criminal records create substantial barriers to finding stable and well-paid work.
Past research suggests that criminal records impair employment outcomes through employers' hiring practices and by shaping jobseekers' job search behavior.
Given the importance of finding a job during the re-entry period, and given the challenges that job seekers with criminal records face finding work, several interventions have been sought to improve the employment chances of people with criminal records.
One such intervention is the use of Fair Chance policies. Fair Chance policies prohibit employers from asking about an applicant's criminal history or conducting a background check during the early stages of a job search.
Examples include the California Fair Chance Act and the Los Angeles City Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring Ordinance
Chrysalis staff recognized the importance of Fair Chance hiring practices but faced challenges in adopting new ones due to time constraints and limited employee bandwidth. Survey results from job seekers indicated that the Fair Chance statement did not significantly affect their perception of Chrysalis as a Fair Chance employer, possibly because Chrysalis already had a strong reputation as an inclusive workplace. However, posting the Fair Chance statement allowed Chrysalis executives to explicitly communicate their commitment to hiring individuals with criminal justice system involvement and serve as a model for other employers.
The study found that the Fair Chance statement did not have a statistically significant impact on job seekers’ perception of Chrysalis as a Fair Chance employer. However, Chrysalis executives found that posting a Fair Chance statement allowed them to explicitly communicate their commitment to hiring individuals who have criminal justice system involvement and to model this behavior to other employers.
The study also found that Chrysalis staff identified Fair Chance hiring practices as central to their work and adhered to many of them, but time and employee bandwidth presented challenges to adopting new ones.
Overall, the study found that the Fair Chance statement was not a significant factor in job seekers’ perception of Chrysalis as a Fair Chance employer, but it did allow Chrysalis executives to communicate their commitment to hiring individuals who have criminal justice system involvement.
Finding 1: Current State of Inclusive Hiring Practices
Our interviews further suggest three primary areas for growth: standardized hiring and onboarding processes, increased capacity for hiring and mentoring, and Fair Chance-specific training that applies directly to employees’ daily job functions. These characteristics were observed by our employer partner Chrysalis, which already stands out as an organization strongly committed to inclusive hiring. For example, Chrysalis previously implemented a blind resume review and removed unnecessary education requirements to mitigate biases against job applicants with former justice system involvement. Nevertheless, interviewees agreed that Chrysalis could strengthen its commitment to hiring and retaining employees with lived experience by taking steps such as sourcing job candidates from diverse backgrounds and training hiring managers on unique barriers faced by employees with justice system involvement. Implementing a Fair Chance pilot is one way an organization can act on an organizational commitment to continuous improvement.
Finding 2: Impact of the Fair Chance Statement on Job Seekers
According to the survey, the Fair Chance statement did not have a statistically significant impact on job seekers’ willingness to apply to a position at Chrysalis, nor did it significantly change job seekers’ perceptions of the organization. A plausible explanation for this finding is that respondents already perceived Chrysalis to be an inclusive employer. Approximately 60 percent of all our survey respondents strongly agreed that they would have applied to work at Chrysalis with or without the Fair Chance statement, and 75 percent of respondents with criminal legal systems involvement strongly agreed with this statement. This statistically significant difference suggests that the sub-group of respondents most directly targeted by Fair Chance policies have strong perceptions of Chrysalis and other employers whom they view as an inclusive and supportive place to work.
“Make sure the welcome sign is up, so at least you’re increasing the odds of that pool being fair [and] diverse.”
Finding 3: Impact of the Pilot on the Organization
However, another intended outcome of the pilot was to externally communicate Chrysalis’ inclusivity and commitment to hiring formerly justice-involved individuals. In the words of one executive, publishing a Fair Chance statement is one way to “make sure the welcome sign is up, so at least you’re increasing the odds of that pool being fair [and] diverse.” The statement thus enabled Chrysalis to express the organization’s mission and values more explicitly to external stakeholders, such as job seekers with lived experience who are not Chrysalis clients. One executive explained that by broadcasting the organization’s identity as explicitly Fair Chance, “we can spread our wings a lot wider” in terms of sourcing diverse candidates who are not already in the pipeline. Key stakeholders also include other employers in Greater Los Angeles. One executive explained how publishing the Fair Chance statement gave Chrysalis a chance to “practice what they preach” and model best practices in terms of promoting the hiring and retention of formerly justice-involved individuals. This is a crucial step considering that a core organizational function of Chrysalis is to help clients secure gainful employment elsewhere.
Overall, the pilot of the Fair Chance statement was a success in terms of raising awareness of Chrysalis and other employers who are committed to hiring formerly justice-involved individuals and promoting the organization as a Fair Chance employer to external stakeholders. However, the statement did not have a statistically significant impact on job seekers’ willingness to apply to a position at Chrysalis and may have similar implications for other employers and their perceptions of the organization. This suggests that the statement may not be a necessary condition for job seekers with lived experience to apply, but it can still be an important part of the organization’s overall strategy to promote inclusive hiring.
Summary and Recommendations
Overall, the study found that Chrysalis is already doing a lot to promote inclusive hiring practices like many other employers in Los Angeles County, however, there are still some areas where organizations can improve. By implementing the recommendations in this study, LA County employers can further their commitment to hiring individuals with lived experience and create a more inclusive workplace for all. Below is a summary of our project recommendations:
Standardize hiring procedures. Like Chrysalis, employers can improve inclusive hiring practices by standardizing more aspects of the hiring process to ensure greater equity and maximize staff capacity. This includes determining the optimal level for HR representatives to be involved in each hire and developing standard protocols for hiring tasks and developing candidate assessments and interview scorecards. There is also an opportunity for HR to provide hiring managers additional guidance on following Fair Chance practices and negotiating candidate salaries.
Allot appropriate time in the hiring process to abide by inclusive practices. Every person interviewed for this study cited time scarcity and limited bandwidth as central obstacles to implementing new inclusive hiring practices at Chrysalis, like many employers from across the county. Reducing the urgency to fill certain positions and allowing hiring managers ample time to review résumés and properly train new hires may develop a strong foundation for adhering to inclusive hiring practices, although admittedly, this is a difficult problem to solve.
Administer mandatory Fair Chance training. While interviewees were unanimous in their belief that Chrysalis is a Fair Chance employer, their understanding of Fair Chance policies was mixed, which is true for other employers and their understanding as well. Several interviewees suggested making Fair Chance training mandatory for all hiring managers to bridge this gap. Interviewees emphasized that it would be most effective for this training to take place early in a hiring manager’s tenure so that inclusive practices are top of mind when hiring managers undertake their first hiring process.
Liz Stanfield Research Assistant USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation
Priya Ranganath Research Assistant Neighborhood Data for Social Change
Dr. Steven Schmidt Postdoctoral Fellow Neighborhood Data for Social Change
Caroline Bhalla Executive Director Neighborhood Data for Social Change
Victoria Ciudad-Real Former Project Manager USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation
Dr. Gary Painter Professor USC Price School of Public Policy
Michael Graff-Weisner VP, Strategy & External Relations
VP, Human Resources
Assistant Vice President
Director of Business Development
Jeffery T. Wallace Founder & CEO LeadersUp
John Roberson Chief of Staff, Stakeholder Engagement LeadersUp
Denny Esquival Senior Manager, Solutions LeadersUp