When it comes to criminal convictions, businesses have traditionally practiced cut-and-dried policies. With evolving employment guidelines and a drastically low unemployment rate, the need for giving convicted criminals a second chance is increasing, and may be a necessity.
Recently, the EEOC has strongly inserted itself in the fight against discrimination resulting from background checks. The agency brought a high profile discrimination case against a large furniture retailer that used general guidelines to reject candidates from positions due to criminal convictions. The litigation resulted in a complete overhaul of hiring procedures, along with several other steps to ensure hiring managers remained in compliance with EEOC guidelines.
The EEOC requires companies to assess each case individually when reviewing criminal records to make hiring decisions. The criminal record must show evidence that a candidate may be a reasonable liability in the position for which they applied. For example, a DUI conviction may be grounds for denying an applicant a driving position, but likely does not show cause to deny someone seeking a receptionist position. In addition, the EEOC requires companies give candidates the opportunity to explain why their offense does not apply to their position. It also obliges the company to furnish a copy of the background check, upon request. Finally, there are necessary steps and timeframes that must be followed, in order to allow the candidate to make proper disputes.
Businesses must also take into account the degree of the offense, the length of time since the crime was committed, and the nature of the job. State and federal laws must also be taken into consideration. A company may run into further issues if the candidate has been gainfully employed since the criminal conviction, and is then denied subsequent employment.
According to a Northwestern University study, there are also benefits to hiring convicts. While it is a fact that some convicts will return to prison, they are more likely to stay out of prison if they find a job shortly after their release. Additionally, people with criminal records are 13% less likely to leave a job, due to potential difficulty in finding a new job. As unemployment drops under 4%, it may become vital, and a benefit to both applicants and employers, to include the over 650,000 people that are released from prison each year in the candidate pool.
While the guidelines on denying a candidate employment based on a background check may be blurry, one thing is clear: It is no longer acceptable to deny a candidate employment due to blanket rules, such as having a felony conviction or a criminal charge in the past 7 years.
To learn more about the EEOC’s settlement with Rooms to Go, click to view the press release provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For general information on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, please visit their website.
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