A Background Check Doesn’t Show Who You Are Today

Mar 31, 2024   |  By Ryan A. Moser

Dion always had a job growing up in New York. Since starting work at the age of 13, Dion had been a golf caddy, a waiter, and a manager at his uncle’s drycleaning business.

After completing his associate's degree, Dion was ready to set his sights on a more exciting career. Unfortunately, he made some mistakes and found himself incarcerated, which set those dreams back. .

But when he was released four years ago, he was optimistic about getting back on track to success.

“I’d heard about the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) when I was inside,” Dion said. “When I got out I was hired for a transitional work crew and was assigned a job coach.”

After working with the crew for four months, and meeting regularly with a job coach to polish up his resume and job readiness skills, he went to a local job fair and applied with a company that does janitorial work.

“It came up at the interview that I had a criminal history, but the manager said it wouldn’t disqualify me from being hired, and I started working the next week,” Dion said.

The new job helped him pay his fines, so he could get early termination of parole and rent an apartment. He felt pride in what he’d accomplished in such a short time. But after only six weeks on the job, Dion was approached by human resources and told that he was being let go because of his background.

“Since coming home, hiring discrimination has been the hardest part of being formerly incarcerated,” said Dion. “The background check is not fair because it only shows a picture of who I was in the past, not of who I am now.”

After being fired, Dion contacted CEO and soon began the Emerging Leaders Program, a full-time on-the-job apprenticeship working alongside CEO’s internal departments.

Dion completed the program and used those skills to eventually get a good job as a community health worker at a local hospital. He takes great pride in reminding himself of the obstacles he has been able to overcome to get where he is now.

To learn more about CEO’s work to limit the use of background checks and ensure equitable opportunities for others returning from incarceration, visit MoreThanABackground.org.