In 1966, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) created the Federal Bonding Program (FBP) as an employer job-hire incentive that guaranteed the job honesty of at-risk job seekers. Federal financing of Fidelity Bond insurance, issued free-of-charge to employers, enabled the delivery of bonding services as a unique job placement tool to assist ex-offenders, and other at-risk/hard-to-place job applicants (e.g., recovering substance abusers, welfare recipients, poor credits, etc.) The various State Employment Services (ES) comprised the national delivery system for issuing to employers the bonds that USDOL had purchased from the Aetna Casualty and Surety Company (now owned by and operated as Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America; referred to hereafter as TRAVELERS).
Job seekers who have in the past committed a fraudulent or dishonest act, or who have demonstrated other past behavior casting doubt upon their credibility or honesty, very often are rejected for employment due to their personal backgrounds. Their past life experience presents an obstacle to their future ability to secure employment. More specifically, employers view these applicants as being “at-risk” and potentially untrustworthy workers. This fear is further heightened by the fact that Fidelity Bond insurance commercially purchased by employers to protect against employee dishonesty usually will not cover at-risk persons because they are designated by insurance companies as being “NOT BONDABLE.” As a result, these job applicants are routinely denied employment.
Ex-offenders, including anyone with a record of arrest, conviction or imprisonment, and anyone who has ever been on probation or parole, are at-risk job applicants. When you combine figures for the U.S. inmate population and the offender population in the free community who are now on probation or parole, the total number of persons “under correctional supervision” approaches 7 million individuals (1 in every 32 U.S. adults). More than 600,000 inmates are released from prison or jail annually. Past experiences reveal that 67% of them will be recidivists (i.e., return to crime and incarceration within three years of their release). Failure to become employed after release is a major factor contributing to the high rate of recidivism. Having a record of arrest, conviction or imprisonment functions as a significant barrier to employment since employers generally view ex-offenders as potentially untrustworthy workers and insurance companies usually designate ex-offenders as being “not bondable” for job honesty.
Similarly at-risk and NOT BONDABLE are recovering substance abusers (alcohol and/or drug abuse), welfare recipients and other persons having a poor credit record or who have declared bankruptcy, economically disadvantaged youth who lack a work history, and individuals who were dishonorably discharged from the military. Others searching for work also can be classified as at-risk if the barrier to their employment can be eliminated by making them bondable.
Fidelity Bonding is insurance purchased to indemnify employers for loss of money or property sustained through the dishonest acts of their employees (i.e., theft, forgery, larceny, and embezzlement). This “employee dishonesty insurance” is generally considered a good business management practice, and is purchased by most employers. However, while other types of commercially purchased insurance set premiums that vary according to the degree of risk (e.g., life insurance), Fidelity Bond premiums are always low due to being based upon taking low risk. As a result, insurance companies usually will not cover at-risk persons under commercially purchased Fidelity Bonds, a practice that has created a special barrier to employment for the very large and growing number of individuals who have encountered the criminal justice system in the U.S., as well as other persons whose personal credibility is questionable.
With the great expansion of database creation and access through computer use in the past 20 years, employers now can almost instantly do a “background check” to determine if a job applicant has any criminal record or has a poor personal financial credit history (80% of employers now make such checks according to the Society of Human Resources Management). The use of background checks on job applicants has increased significantly since the terrorist events on September 11, 2001. Since ex-offenders are not bondable under commercial employee dishonesty insurance policies (i.e., Fidelity Bonds) usually purchased by employers, an increasing number of persons seeking work are being routinely denied jobs due to being confronted with bonding as a barrier to employment. Only through their participation in the FBP can they become bondable.
The bonds issued by the FBP serve as a job placement tool by guaranteeing to the employer the job honesty of at-risk job seekers. Employers receive the bonds free-of-charge as an incentive to hire hard-to-place job applicants as wage earners. The FBP bond insurance was designed to reimburse the employer for any loss due to employee theft of money or property with no deductible amount to become the employer’s liability (i.e., 100% bond insurance coverage). The USDOL experiment has proved to be a great success, with over 42,000 job placements made for at-risk job seekers who were automatically made bondable. Since approximately 460 proved to be dishonest workers, bonding services as a job placement tool can be considered to have a 99% success rate.
Fidelity Bonding service delivery has been streamlined to take only a few minutes time, and efficiently serve the operational needs of local staffs who are already burdened by other paperwork and processing delays. The “user friendly” character of the FBP is reflected in its key operating features as follows:
- NO special application form for job seeker to complete
- NO bond approval processing – local staff instantly issue bonds to employers
- NO papers for employer to submit or sign to obtain free bond incentive for job hire
- NO follow-up and NO termination actions required by bond issued
- NO deductible in bond insurance amount if employee dishonesty occurs
- NO age requirements for bondee (other than legal working age in State)
- NO other U.S. program provides Fidelity Bonding services
- NO Federal regulations covering bonds issued
Bond issuance can apply to any job at any employer in any State, and covers any employee dishonesty committed on or away from the employer’s work facility. Any full or part-time employee paid wages (with Federal taxes automatically deducted from pay) can be bonded, including persons hired by “temp. agencies.” However, self-employed persons cannot be covered by these Fidelity Bonds. While assisting job seekers in securing employment is the main goal of the FBP, bonds are also issued to cover already employed workers who need bonding to prevent being laid off or to secure transfer or promotion to a different job at their company. Service delivery efficiency is inherent to bonding because its cost occurs only when a job placement is generated or maintained for an individual whose background is a significant barrier to securing or retaining employment.
After more than 40 years of operational success demonstrated by the FBP, continued total dependence on direct USDOL funding of Fidelity Bonds (i.e., bond premiums paid to TRAVELERS) became no longer feasible in October 1997 due to the Federal decentralization to State and local levels of authority/funds/planning for job placement and other employment and training services. As a result, USDOL ordered a redirection of the FBP requiring that State and local funds (including WIA and other Federal allocations) be used to purchase bonds. Any public agency or private community-based-organization or private industry group now can directly acquire bonds and deliver bonding services through purchase of a bond package in accordance with the Guidelines on the Purchase and Use of Fidelity Bonds issued by Union Insurance Group as exclusive agent for TRAVELERS for the FBP . USDOL has recognized the past success of the FBP and supports having the unique job placement resource of bonding services sustained in the future as a Federal-State partnership.
National management and direction for the FBP is provided by Union Insurance Group in Washington, D.C., under contract with the USDOL’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA). Union Insurance Group is a national insurance brokerage firm serving as the exclusive agent for TRAVELERS which issues Fidelity Bonds nationwide under the FBP. The FBP Director is Tom Villanova and can be reached at 800-233-2258 or Tom@bonds4jobs.com.