The Right to Work and Happiness

This photo represents one of the times when I am most happy, with my daughter at an Ohio State Football game. We must have won based upon the smiles.

There are many things that make us happy. Family, travel, hobbies, exercise, reading, watching sports, listening to music, and yes, work. We often take the last one for granted as we spend so much time at it. We count the days until the weekend, weeks until vacation and years to retirement. But all in all, nothing provides us an identity, self esteem, and happiness as does work. “A large stream of research has shown that the non-monetary aspects of employment are also key drivers of people’s wellbeing. Social status, social relations, daily structure, and goals all exert a strong influence on people’s happiness”. (Harvard Business Review, March 20, 2017)

Yet, even though work brings happiness, it is not equally available to everyone. The Declaration of Independence States that “We are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. But this is at best a half truth for many, including those in the White Collar Justice impacted community (WCJIC) and others with conviction records who are blocked from meaningful work. This robs us from a real ability to attain the happiness that is available to everyone else.

As for the WCJIC, “White-collar workers generally report experiencing more positive emotional states such as smiling, laughing, enjoyment, and fewer negative ones like feelings of worry, stress, sadness, and anger. Yet, One of the most robust findings in the economics of happiness is that unemployment is destructive to people’s wellbeing”. (Harvard Business Review, March 20, 2017). Therefore, the WCJIC are devoid of happiness at a high level.

It is often easy to say that people with conviction records caused their own problems. They made choices that led to them having a record that makes them hard to trust, creates safety issues for other employees, and should be screened out of opportunity for most jobs. Time and remorse should nullify this, but all freedoms are not equal. Those with convictions are free to choose other things that create happiness. We are allowed to create memories like the one with my daughter, engage in hobbies, and attain personal growth in many ways. But in the end, we remain devoid of opportunity for the happiness of employment. That is not the freedom for happiness The Constitution intended for all of us and significant change needs to occur.

So, to all employers and HR divisions that are faced with hiring decisions regarding individuals from the WCJIC, each time you deny us a job because of our record (for what you often hide behind as “legitimate business reasons”), you are not only denying us financial security, you are denying us the right to happiness. On behalf of the WCJIC, and others, I m calling for the consideration of the possible personal destruction you are creating without Fair Chance hiring and other equal opportunity initiatives.

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