After more than 20 years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this spring revised its policy guidance on employers’ use of arrest records in making hiring decisions. The announcement received a great deal of media attention.
In communities like Chicago’s underserved Englewood community, a significant number of residents are arrested in police sweeps but ultimately neither charged nor convicted of crimes. Nonetheless, in violation of EEOC guidance, employers often do not hire residents based upon these arrest records.
Are residents of communities like Englewood aware of the new federal policy guidance and their rights?
Not necessarily. “Englewood residents reported to us that they were largely unaware of their rights regarding how their arrest records are used by employers,” says the Adler School’s Tiffany McDowell, Ph.D., M.F.T., Program Manager and Research Associate for the Institute on Social Exclusion.
ISE faculty, staff and project teams have worked closely with Englewood residents and community organizations for more than six years on a range of efforts, from the ongoing Gun Violence Prevention Program to the current Mental Health Impact Assessment project.
For more than a year, the ISE and its MHIA team, including Englewood community leaders, have examined the EEOC policy guidance and the projected impact on an entire community’s mental health when employers uses arrest records in making employment decisions about members of that community.
After the EEOC announced its policy guidance change in April, ISE along with Teamwork Englewood, the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE), and the Safer Foundation organized open houses at Kennedy King College to spread the news.
At the open houses June 19 and June 29, speakers including Asiaha Butler from RAGE, Juandalyn Holland from Teamwork Englewood, Todd Belcore from Shriver Poverty Law Center, and Anthony Lower from Safer Foundation discussed the changes with more than 140 Englewood residents.
They also discussed the rights that previously arrested or incarcerated individuals hold, and how those individuals can advocate for themselves and obtain free legal assistance if they feel they have been discriminated against based on their arrest records.
“These open houses were designed to increase awareness of the EEOC’s new policy guidance.” McDowell says. At the same time, they oriented residents on how to talk about arrest records with possible employers, as well as gain employment and understand individual rights. They also served as a means of networking and the chance to interact with possible employers, she says.
The open houses were the latest steps in the MHIA project pioneered by the Adler School’s ISE, which has attracted interest from policymakers, academicians and health impact assessment (HIA) professionals around the world.
The highly anticipated report on the ISE’s 18-month MHIA work will be announced at “The Social Determinants of Urban Mental Health: Paving the Way Forward,” Sept. 19-20 in Chicago.
This second global conference of the ISE will examine how to create cities that promote the mental health and well-being of their residents. Keynote speaker is the globally recognized epidemiologist Professor Sir Michael G. Marmot MBBS, MPH, PhD, Director of the University College London Institute of Health Equity (Marmot Institute), and Chair of the European Review on the Social Determinants of Health and the Health Divide.
In addition to releasing the MHIA report, principal investigator and ISE Executive Director Lynn Todman, PhD, will join the project team in presenting a post-conference workshop on MHIA as a tool for creating public policy that promotes population mental health.
CE/CME credits will be offered for psychologists and interested non-psychologists, physicians, and social workers. Hosted by the Adler School’s ISE, the conference is jointly sponsored by University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine and the UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work.