Center for Employment Opportunities Launches ‘More Than A Background’ Campaign to Raise Awareness of the Discrimination Workers Face When Their Qualifications for a Job Are Ignored Because of Their Past Criminal Convictions

CEO Media Contact:
Matt Sutton | [email protected] | (646) 951-4811

#MoreThanABackground Launched During ‘Second Chance Month’ to Shine a Light on the Barriers Justice-Impacted People Face in Obtaining Employment as a Result of Overreliance on Background Checks

New York, NY – April 1, 2024 – Today, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), the nation’s largest reentry organization, launched ‘More Than a Background’ (#MoreThanABackground), a public awareness campaign to limit the use of criminal background checks in the hiring process.

The campaign will use compelling imagery and personal storytelling of impacted people, along with interactive digital assets, to create greater public awareness of the challenges people with criminal records face when trying to obtain employment, regardless of their qualifications. The goal of the campaign is to shift the narrative to make people understand the inequities caused by the overreliance on background checks in the hiring process; encourage and educate employers on better, more equitable hiring practices; and seed the ground for future reforms.

“Everyone, regardless of their past, is More Than a Background,” said Sam Schaefer, Executive Director of the Center for Employment Opportunities. “Every individual has amazing attributes and identities that not only make them significant and unique but also make them exemplary workers. They are skilled, hardworking, they are mothers, advocates and so much more. Yet, sadly, because of the widespread overreliance on background checks in the employment process, they are diminished to checking a box that blocks them from accessing opportunities that they are more than qualified for.”

As a national organization, CEO has seen firsthand the disparities in how workers with criminal backgrounds are treated in the hiring process. States and cities are increasingly addressing this problem by passing fair chance laws that protect justice impacted people, but more remains to be done.

“It didn’t matter that I had 22 years of restaurant management skills. When I returned from prison in 2022, I couldn’t even get a call back… a foot in the door. I wasn’t given the opportunity to be evaluated fairly based on my qualifications,” said Marvin, a former CEO participant and Advocacy Leadership Committee member. “Today, I’m proud to say, I’ve taken this experience to become a fair-chance employer myself, and am providing opportunities to others that are returning from prison and facing the same obstacles I did.”

Nationally, 94% of employers run background checks to screen applicants, and the lack of employment protections for formerly incarcerated people has resulted in them experiencing higher unemployment than any other population. In fact, according to a 2021 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), roughly 60% of people were unemployed a year after being released from incarceration, and 40% were still unemployed four years post-incarceration. And although employers have expressed a willingness to hire people with criminal records, evidence shows that having a record reduces employer callback rates by 50%.

Legislation has been introduced in California that would further limit the use of criminal background checks in the hiring process. CEO is a proud co-sponsor of California Senate Bill 1345, the Just Access to Jobs Act. The bill seeks to improve upon ban-the-box reforms of 2017 by further limiting the use of background checks in the hiring process and providing more protection for employees with criminal records who face discrimination in the workplace. The bill comes on the heels of a Los Angeles County fair chance ordinance passed in February 2024 that gives additional rights, protections, and enforcement mechanisms for people with criminal history seeking employment. It not only applies to all private employers with five or more employees, it applies to Los Angeles County government, which is the largest local employer.

A workforce that provides opportunities for all workers is a workforce that values the skills and experience a person has and recognizes that we are all more than a background check.

More information and personal stories can be found at


About the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO)

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) provides immediate, effective, and comprehensive employment services exclusively to people recently released from incarceration. CEO currently operates in 30 cities in 12 states and is dedicated to ensuring that justice-impacted people have opportunities and careers to achieve socioeconomic mobility. For more information, please visit: