“Give people a second chance” — George Zimmer, founder, Men’s Wearhouse

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“Liberty is always unfinished business.” ~ American Civil Liberties Union

Adam Smith
“Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man or order of men.” ~ Adam Smith

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow citizens.” ~ Adam Smith

“Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, and he is, in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was not part of his intention.” ~ Adam Smith

“There is no art which government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people.” ~ Adam Smith

Since starting the first Men’s Wearhouse (MW) clothing outlet in Houston in 1973, George Zimmer has followed a low-cost contrarian formula. He shuns glitzy retail areas and malls, preferring to open stores in outdoor plazas. He even stars in his own TV commercials. “I have more belief in my company than anyone else,” Zimmer says. “So why hire an actor?” Why indeed. Since going public 15 years ago, Men’s Wearhouse has grown its annual profit from $5.9 million to $149 million.

One more contrarian thing: It is Zimmer’s policy that no employee or interviewee will ever undergo a criminal background check. Conventional retail wisdom says this guarantees petty larceny on a grand scale. In fact, the company loses a mere 0.4 percent of revenue to theft, way less than the typical 1.5 percent loss suffered by big retailers

“I don’t trust the U.S. justice system to get it right,” says Zimmer, who is himself a recovering alcoholic. “I’d rather make my own decisions, and I believe in giving people a second chance.”

•An employer’s use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions may, in some instances, violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

•The Guidance builds on longstanding court decisions and existing guidance documents that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Commission or EEOC) issued over twenty years ago.

•The Guidance focuses on employment discrimination based on race and national origin. The Introduction provides information about criminal records, employer practices, and Title VII.

•The Guidance discusses the differences between arrest and conviction records.
The fact of an arrest does not establish that criminal conduct has occurred, and an exclusion based on an arrest, in itself, is not job related and consistent with business necessity. However, an employer may make an employment decision based on the conduct underlying an arrest if the conduct makes the individual unfit for the position in question.

◦In contrast, a conviction record will usually serve as sufficient evidence that a person engaged in particular conduct. In certain circumstances, however, there may be reasons for an employer not to rely on the conviction record alone when making an employment decision.

•The Guidance discusses disparate treatment and disparate impact analysis under Title VII.
◦A violation may occur when an employer treats criminal history information differently for different applicants or employees, based on their race or national origin (disparate treatment liability).

◦An employer’s neutral policy (e.g., excluding applicants from employment based on certain criminal conduct) may disproportionately impact some individuals protected under Title VII, and may violate the law if not job related and consistent with business necessity (disparate impact liability).
◾National data supports a finding that criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin. The national data provides a basis for the Commission to investigate Title VII disparate impact charges challenging criminal record exclusions.

◾Two circumstances in which the Commission believes employers will consistently meet the “job related and consistent with business necessity” defense are as follows:
◾The employer validates the criminal conduct exclusion for the position in question in light of the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (if there is data or analysis about criminal conduct as related to subsequent work performance or behaviors); or

◾The employer develops a targeted screen considering at least the nature of the crime, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job (the three factors identified by the court in Green v. Missouri Pacific Railroad, 549 F.2d 1158 (8th Cir. 1977)). The employer’s policy then provides an opportunity for an individualized assessment for those people identified by the screen, to determine if the policy as applied is job related and consistent with business necessity. (Although Title VII does not require individualized assessment in all circumstances, the use of a screen that does not include individualized assessment is more likely to violate Title VII.).

•Compliance with other federal laws and/or regulations that conflict with Title VII is a defense to a charge of discrimination under Title VII.

“A God of Second Chances.” In “Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie,” there is a scene where Jonah is sitting in the belly of a whale, and some angels appear out of nowhere and begin explaining to Jonah how God wanted to give him a second chance to be obedient; and thus, they broke out into song about the God of second chances. What’s really neat is how the artists animated some sailing ships that were swallowed by the whale. While the angels were singing about the God of second chances, the masts of the ships formed the backdrop, and they were in the shape of crosses; thus, communicating how each of us has a second chance through Jesus Christ.

This morning we are going to go all the way through the book of Jonah, but don’t be alarmed for it is only four chapters long. We are not going to read each and every verse either, but we are going to touch upon some key verses and points in order to gain an overview of the central message that God wants to reveal. We will come to see that the story of Jonah provides us with a picture of the love, forgiveness, and compassion that God desires to bestow on each of us. The book of Jonah is a glimpse into the second chance that God is longing to extend to all people through His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.

Jonah Was Disobedient to the Lord (1:1-3)

1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Right here we see that God told Jonah to preach in the city of Ninevah, but Jonah was disobedient and ran away. We read here that he fled to the city of Tarshish from the seaport of Joppa. The distance from Joppa to Ninevah was nearly 700 miles; however, the distance from Joppa to Tarshish was about 2200 miles! Tarshish was on the Spanish peninsula and Ninevah was in Assyria; therefore, these two cities were on the complete opposite sides of the known world at that time.

Jonah did a complete U-turn and went in a totally opposite direction of God’s will. Because the Lord asked him to do something that he didn’t want to do and that he didn’t understand, he deliberately disobeyed. When Jonah fled to Tarshish he went three times the distance that God had asked him to journey when he was commanded to preach in the city of Ninevah.

You see, when we are in deliberate defiance to God, our guilt can sometimes result in running as far away from the Lord as we can possibly get. We will try to run from God, because we are hoping we can hide from His face. For example, in the story of the Prodigal Son, we read that the prodigal fled to “a far country” (Luke 15:13). We can certainly run from the Lord, but we absolutely cannot hide from His presence; no way, no how.

Psalm 139:7-10 says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in [the grave], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” We might choose to run from the Lord; but even if we do, we will still have to come face to face with God at some point or another and reckon with Him.

I want to briefly point out what happens when we run from the Lord. In verse 3, we read that “He went down to Joppa . . . and [he] went down into the [ship].” We are going to notice later in the story that he also went “down into the sea,” and “down into the belly of a great fish.” Whenever we run from the Lord we wind up going down, and still farther down, until we hit rock bottom.

When we do our own thing this will only lead to death and destruction, for we read in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Acting apart from the will of God is what the Bible calls sin, and Romans 6:23 tells us, “The wages of sin is death,” meaning spiritual death. As we will see, because Jonah ran from the Lord and entered a downward spiral, he was going to have a brush with death.

Jonah Was Given a Second Chance (1:4; 1:17; 2:1-2; 2:10)

1:4 – 4 But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.

1:17 – 17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

2:1-2 – 1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said: “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice.”

2:10 – 10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Here we see Jonah’s brush with death that resulted from his disobedience to God. As Jonah sailed for Tarshish, a terrible storm arose that threatened the lives of everyone on board the ship. If we take a look at verse 7, we read that the men cast lots (or gambled), in order to find out who brought the disaster upon them, and the lot fell on Jonah; and then in verse 15, we see that they threw Jonah overboard in order to save their own lives, and they abandoned him to die at sea.

You would think that things couldn’t get any worse for Jonah, with the storm and being tossed overboard, but next we see that Moby Dick came along and gobbled him up. We read here that a great fish swallowed Jonah. We don’t know exactly what this fish was; however, most children’s stories call the fish a whale. This great fish swallowing Jonah was not God’s punishment; it was actually His provision to save Jonah from drowning. After Jonah’s deliberate running and outright disobedience, God had compassion on him and spared his miserable life. The Lord revealed here that He is indeed “a God of second chances.”

We read in verse 17, that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and nights. He had just run away from the Lord three times the distance that God had told him to go, and now he was in the belly of the fish for three days and nights. This similarity with numbers is not a coincidence, for a point is being emphasized here.

We read in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This is a reference to Jesus lying in the tomb for three days and nights after His crucifixion and burial. God’s mercy toward us is so great that He gave His one and only Son to die for us and enter the place of death on our behalf, so that we might have eternal life. We can flee from the Lord three times the distance He has called us, but His mercy is three times greater than our disobedience.

Bad credit, the belly of the whale, disenfranchised due to felonies, the belly of the whale, disconnected from faith, the belly of the whale, actually in prison, stuck in unrighteous thoughts, all are not beyond you receiving a second chance. Michael Vick, Martha Steward and countless others had their marketing skills and brand packaging of talents, but we have the seal of approval from Christ Jesus our Lord, we will prevail.


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