Recently, an article in Transport Topics, “Trucking Industry Awaiting Court Rulings over the Legality of Banning Felons” (Miller 2013), caught my attention. We work very hard to help our clients screen out unfit driver applicants and these recent developments fly in the face of logic. At first glance, it seems folly that one government agency promulgates rules that are in conflict with another. But then again, that’s your government dollars at work.
For years, the entire industry has shunned ex-felons like the plague. For good reason. People who’ve been found guilty of a felony have proven they’re willing to break the rules…serious rules with serious consequences. And, anyone but a fool knows that to be a safe, professional driver, a person must be rule-abiding. It’s part of the job. In our pre-employment screening process, ApplicantCare™, we have tools that measure this trait. It’s called “compliance.”My, how times change. For decades, common sense prevailed. Reasonable people agreed that truck drivers should be responsible and compliant. But now, with nearly 12 million felons in America and more getting out of the big house everyday, the government doesn’t want them all on the dole. What does the EEOC do? They gin up some “guidance” on hiring practices so they can foist these guys on you, the employer.You’re stuck between the rock and a hard place. If you hire a felon and he screws up (e.g.: a collision, injury, altercation, road rage, cargo theft, etc.), you get raked over the coals by some opposing attorney. However, if you err on the side of caution, you could get sued for rejecting a felon who claims discrimination and adverse impact.
We did some research and found numerous ads with a wide range of requirements:
- No Felonies in last 10 years, older ones will be looked at
- Will Accept Applicants with Previous Felony -Yes 5 years old
- No Felony or DUI in Last 5 Years
- Felony Policy: Will NOT Hire
- No felony convictions
- No felony convictions within 7 years
- No felonies within the last 7 years, cannot currently be on probation, or be currently registered as a sex offender
- No drug/violent felony convictions within past 10 yrs-no current parole or arrest warrants
- Felony Policy: Will Consider
What explains this wide variation in policy?
I’ve named, and defined a few different ways to look at this. As you read these, please think about your own philosophy.
- Competitive recruiting. This thinking asserts that taking a risk on a felon is necessary with the current driver shortage. (I need everyone I can get.)
- Burned once. This stems from a bad experience with a felon. (I hired one and things went badly. I’m more conservative now.)
- Every felony is related to the driving job. This philosophy is grounded in scientific fact. People who break rules, break rules. Ex-felons are more likely to get into mischief.
- Second chance. He made a mistake. Everyone deserves a second chance.
- Fear. If I hire a felon and he gets into an accident, the plaintiff’s lawyer will excoriate us.
- Compliance with the law. Regardless of my beliefs, I have to comply with the law, but which law…the one that says don’t hire ex-felons or the one that says I better hire them?
What can you do?
Regardless of your opinion, we strongly encourage you to use some type of screening tool to determine an applicant’s tendencies regarding rules and compliance. By the way, we have the best one in the world, though there are others. If you can’t rely on cold hard facts, like previous convictions, at least you can assess an applicant’s values and personality traits and use that data as part of a compensatory model for making an informed, legal and defensible hiring decision.
We’re not anti-government here at AvatarFleet. We’re anti-stupidity. If you’d like to stay out of trouble and focus on the things that matter to your business, give us call. We’d love to help you.