The most recent example comes in the form of House Bill 4366, which would prohibit both public and private employers from asking about criminal history on initial application forms.
Reasons behind the proposal come from an honest and altruistic place. Let’s give former convicts a chance to get past initial employment screening so they can share their merits and positive attributes, and properly explain their past behavior to the potential employer, in person.
But the reality is, this law, if enacted, would simply add another layer of work on already busy human resources and hiring managers. When there are two good candidates with equal experience, and one happens to have a criminal record, the person with a clean record is nearly always going to be the winner.
While state and federal laws exist to protect people with criminal records from employment discrimination, it’s rather apparent that these individuals face extra obstacles to employment. Those obstacles will be in place no matter whether the criminal background is revealed sooner or later.
The only difference is that now employers will have to make the extra effort later in the process to weed out individuals they don’t feel — given their past exploits — are a good fit for the business.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is opposed to this legislation. They suggest an alternative – that legislators consider a law that would incentivize the hiring of people with criminal records by eliminating liability to employers.
Legislation to this effect has been approved in other states, including neighboring Ohio. It seems that such laws give opportunities to those who have paid their debt to society and are seeking a better path in life.
Considering a similar law in Michigan would seem to be a logical approach to the apparent intent of giving those with criminal records a fighting chance at good jobs.
Providing a positive reward for doing the “right thing” is a way to create real change. That is far preferred over the state government’s recent approach of adding handcuffs and blindfolds to businesses to try to force them into doing something that may or may not backfire.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.