May 26th, 2021 | Sterling

Second Chance Hiring: Building Blocks to Get You Started

Sterling’s Healthcare team recently hosted a virtual roundtable with industry leaders on the topic of second chance hiring. It was an illuminating discussion that emphasized and further explored the advantages and opportunities, while examining the challenges and obstacles. It was clear that everyone in the discussion shared a passion for and dedication to this topic and were eager to collaborate on best practices.

Second chance hiring is the act of employing formerly incarcerated individuals, people in recovery, or other applicants whose life choices and situations have disadvantaged them in obtaining stable employment. Second chance employment is beneficial to both employers and formerly incarcerated individuals. Being given the opportunity of second chance employment is significant in reducing the likelihood of an individual returning to prison, and helps individuals stay in their families and communities where they can continue building positive social networks, as stated in this SHRM Blog.

In light of the many events that have transpired over the last year — as well as new legislation around ban the box and fair chance polices — our healthcare clients are placing social justice and equality at the forefront of many discussions in their respective organizations. Because of the heightened regulatory environment in healthcare, the decisions around this are not straightforward. During the roundtable we learned that the greatest challenge is not always in garnering internal alignment, but the ability to put an actionable plan in place around second chance hiring. One of our guests from the roundtable pointed out, “We’ve tried to look at it in the past and have gotten tripped up on the fact that we had so many different regulatory compliance issues that come into play because we are in healthcare and we need to be so careful about hiring.” Others were unsure how to start, what their process should look like, and what they need to be focused on.

Following are some suggestions on what to consider when working on next steps for your organization.

The Building Blocks

  • Review your bylaws
  • Segment your population, perhaps starting with non-safety sensitive, non-federal contractors, etc., and determine specific roles to fill
  • Consider federal, state, and local laws
  • Reach out to community organizations that work to repatriate individuals back into society and consider partnering with them
  • Construct a background screening package specifically around second chance hires
  • Create an adjudication workflow
  • Consider establishing a mentor program for second chance hires
  • Ensure you have the technology in place to support all federal, state, and local laws and continuous screening
  • Consult with Legal Counsel

With the Covid-19 pandemic came many hiring hurdles, especially in the healthcare industry. The great need for qualified healthcare professionals in a short period of time created a significant demand that caused organizations to work overtime to meet the need and fill in talent gaps for their organization. Amid the high volume and frenzied pace, you likely encountered candidates with criminal backgrounds, a situation many of us have likely been in. It possibly made you question if you should pass on these candidates for the sake of your organization and your employees. “We’ve been trying to figure out how we can create better career pathways, and ensure that everyone in our state has a livable wage and so that, along with the diversity and inclusion efforts that we have, I think that this marries up with those priorities this year very well,” said an industry leader at our roundtable.

An increasing number of studies show the benefits of hiring rehabilitated candidates with a criminal history. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently launched their own Getting Talent Back to Work campaign to educate employers on this tough topic.

SHRM outlines some of the pros and cons of hiring employees with criminal backgrounds:


  • Most are very loyal: Employees with criminal backgrounds are less likely to quit and generally work harder than most other employees.
  • You maintain compliance: Passing over potential job candidates simply because of a criminal background may get you in trouble for discrimination.
  • Hiring people with criminal records gives your company new talent: Employees with criminal records could bring a different perspective to your company that could be beneficial. It’s always good to diversify your workplace with new talent.


  • There is a risk of recidivism: People with criminal records have a real risk of having a relapse.
  • There is the potential of bringing danger into your workplace: Ex-offenders might exhibit behaviors that are a danger to your company or other employees.

As stated by Sterling’s own Regulatory Consultant, Lori Williams-Martin, “Increased demand for healthcare employees as well as social responsibility will no doubt require healthcare leaders to do a balancing act between how strict their hiring and background screening guidelines are, based on healthcare regulatory compliance, a desire to build a safe and trusted environment for their patients, workers, and visitors, and their desire to give an applicant a second chance; but it can be done.” She urges leadership to reacquaint themselves with the EEOC’s guidance published in 2012, which outlines appropriate use of criminal records in the hiring process by doing an assessment of certain factors. Lori adds, “It would be a great idea for organizations to familiarize themselves with federal, state, and local regulatory requirements.” Creating your own evaluation process while staying abreast of regulation will help you do your part, remain compliant, and give an applicant a fair chance.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.