KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Bronson Healthcare is giving applicants with a criminal past a second chance. The largest employer in Southwest Michigan announced they’ve joined the Ban The Box campaign and have nixed the “have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor” question from their application.
“It removes any bias that may be there on the front end by the people reviewing the application,” said Bronson's Dir. of Diversity and Inclusion Beth Washington during an interview at the hospital in Kalamazoo. “Then that person can be evaluated equally and equitably with all the other applicants.”
The Ban The Box campaign is a nationwide movement to eliminate bias from an employer's hiring process. Washington said Bronson recognizes that in the moment of applying for a job, an applicant may not remember a past conviction that happened decades ago and may forget to list it on the application. Because of that misstep, that person ultimately loses out on getting the job. She said Bronson Kalamazoo experienced this a lot within the last year losing 45 candidates because of that question.
“Those candidates, they applied, they checked the box, listed everything they thought,” said Washington. “When the background check didn’t match what they listed on their application, our policy had said ‘oh they can’t be hired.’”
Washington added that getting rid the controversial question also removes the stigma that applicants with criminal histories can face. It allows the person to apply with ease.
“It relieves all of that pressure,” said Washington. “[Applicants] don’t even have to worry about it. They’re going to see what’s there. Then we can have a conversation about it if needed.”
Washington said removing the question also gives employers the chance to focus on a person’s qualifications and job skills. The background check still happens. It's state law. But this new campaign allows for employers to get know the applicant first before digging into his or her's past.
“From doctor to custodian, every person within our healthcare system has to have a background check” said Washington. “A very detailed background check and meet the requirements in order to be part of our healthcare system.”
Bronson officially joined the campaign in early April. They were the first healthcare group in the state to do so. Washington said they’re hoping that by removing the question it’ll lead to a larger applicant pool.
“If we can have more employed people and be inclusive in our employment practices, our system runs better and our community is lifted up,” said Washington. “The economics of the entire community can be improved by having more people employed.”