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This algorithm could make it easier for over 73 million Americans to get jobs


Zuleyka Strasner is one of those few business owners who saw her startup Zero Grocery grow during the COVID-19 pandemic. Strasner, Zero’s founder and CEO, says that the Bay Area-based delivery company grew by 200% week-over-week when stay-at-home orders were issued in California in mid-March. That the company aims to reduce waste from unnecessary packaging was a bonus for shoppers who didn’t want to risk exposure from reusable containers.

But to address the additional demand, Strasner had to hire more people—fast. Standing in the way of tapping a talent pool was the fact that many solid applicants also had criminal records. Fortunately, Strasner knew where to find a solution.

Back in December, she’d heard about R3 Score, a Baltimore-based tech startup founded by a Black mother-daughter team Teresa Hodge and Laurin Leonard. Hodge says Strasner “mentioned that roughly 50% of all applicants had some [sort of a record] and if she had greater context she could move forward.”

Currently, more than 73 million Americans have some sort of a criminal history, and that is expected to increase to more than 100 million over the next decade. “The FBI considers anyone who has been arrested on a felony charge to have a criminal record, even if the arrest did not lead to a conviction,” says Hodge. That averages out to be one out of every three citizens, according to Politifact.

Despite this, Hodge notes that most employers still run a background check on job candidates. “Roughly nine out of 10 employers run some version of a criminal report,” she says. However, when a report is returned to the employer and criminal history is present, employers don’t know what to do with this new information. “A candidate that was once in the selection process can suddenly find themselves disqualified based on something as minor as a booking several years prior,” says Hodge, who herself served a 70-month federal prison sentence for a nonviolent crime. FULL ARTICLE

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