The concept of “fair chance employment/hiring” is gaining momentum as a critical initiative in creating equitable opportunities for individuals with criminal records. Fair chance employment, also commonly referred to as “second chance” employment, emphasizes providing individuals with a criminal history with the opportunity to secure gainful employment. Flagger Force, a national leader in traffic control services, stands at the forefront of this movement, advocating for and implementing fair chance hiring practices, and breaking down barriers to foster an inclusive workforce. In fact, Flagger Force is becoming a vocal supporter of these workforce practices across the company’s footprint.

What Exactly is Fair Chance Hiring?

Fair chance hiring refers to the practice of giving individuals with criminal records an opportunity for employment, free from stigma. It aims to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices that disproportionately impacts individuals with a history of criminal activity, creating on-ramps for them to reintegrate into society successfully. Instead of focusing solely on an individual’s past mistakes, fair chance hiring focuses on their qualifications, skills, and willingness to contribute positively to the workforce.  At Flagger Force, every candidate is assessed individually, without blanket exclusions based on past convictions. Additionally, the application process is streamlined to be accessible and efficient, focusing on candidates’ present qualifications and capabilities.

According to Shea Zwerver, the public affairs and workforce relations manager at Flagger Force, fair chance hiring is about employment equity. Flagger Force is proactive in staying consistent with employment equity by reflecting on and evaluating internal processes and practices to ensure it’s not creating unintentional, unnecessary, or unfounded, barriers to career opportunities for individuals with criminal histories and beyond.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 1 of every 20 persons will serve time in a prison during their lifetime. Yet, formerly incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate of over 27%; to provide perspective, at the peak unemployment rate during the COVID-19 pandemic was 13%.  Unemployment of individuals who have been formerly incarcerated, or with criminal records is a collateral consequence. Collateral consequences are external repercussions individuals face in addition to their court-imposed penalties, or not part of their official sentence. “Collateral consequences of criminal records create social and economic barriers for individuals who are reentering society by denying or restricting rights and privileges that would otherwise be available to them.” According to a project by the National Center for State Courts, one of the most significant collateral consequences that people face after serving their sentences is the inability to find employment. Flagger Force actively partners with community-based organizations who serve justice-impacted individuals and advocates for legislative changes to support fair chance hiring practices and address collateral consequences.

In December 2023, Pennsylvania Governor, Josh Shapiro, signed the clean slate expansion bill. Flagger Force supports clean slate initiatives across the U.S. Clean Slate laws automatically clear eligible records for people who have completed their sentence and remained-free for a designated period of time.  Clean slate reduces the barriers to employment that arise from past convictions. By supporting and engaging with legislative efforts like clean slate initiatives, Flagger Force demonstrates its commitment to fair chance hiring at both the state and federal levels.

Benefits of Fair Chance Hiring

The benefits of fair chance hiring extend beyond social responsibility for Flagger Force. It is a smart talent acquisition strategy; it provides employers a unique opportunity to fill vacancies, increase diversity of its workforce, and reduce turnover. Despite being often overlooked by employers, individuals with criminal records can be loyal and engaged members of any workforce. By providing them with employment opportunities, Flagger Force not only helps individuals rebuild their lives but also gains resolute and driven employees who contribute to the company’s success.

Flagger Force has experienced positive outcomes with implementing fair chance hiring policies. The company has been able to reach into an “untapped talent” pool. And in the process, these initiatives have elevated Flagger Force’s brand and sparked conversations and dialogue with partners and clients, further solidifying its position as a leader in its industry.

Dedication to Fair Chance Hiring

Zwerver says, “Fair chance hiring is a bipartisan effort aimed at addressing historical injustices, systemic racism and helping our economies and communities thrive and flourish. Fair chance hiring offers individuals a way to secure financial stability and independence and break away from the cycle of incarceration. I have observed the difference Flagger Force is making in people’s lives.” She goes on to say, “As advocates for fair chance hiring, Flagger Force believes all people deserve the dignity of work, regardless of their past mistakes.”

In conclusion, Flagger Force is showing that fair chance hiring is a smart business practice. Flagger Force’s unwavering commitment to fair chance hiring exemplifies its dedication to creating a more inclusive and equitable workforce. By breaking down barriers and providing opportunities for justice-impacted individuals, Flagger Force is not only transforming lives but it’s also building stronger, more resilient communities for the future. Businesses, as economic drivers, have a moral imperative to invest in people and communities, fair chance hiring is one way Flagger Force is doing that.