Just in case you missed it, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a jam-packed public hearing titled “Arrest and Conviction Records as a Barrier to Employment” in Washington D.C. on July 26, 2011.
The hearing focused on whether employers are using arrest and conviction records in a way that satisfies Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It also identified and highlighted employer best practices and current legal standards. Basically, it all boils down to the issue of whether arrest and conviction records are hiring barriers to individuals that have criminal histories. Further, the hearing revisited current EEOC guidelines and factors employers must consider when using criminal records.
No decisions were made at the hearing. But there is also a new Cabinet council called “The Federal Interagency Reentry Council,” which has been created to address this issue and review federal hiring policies with respect to arrest and conviction records. It is entirely possible the EEOC will rewrite their guidelines, but that remains to be seen.
Okay, so all of the mumbo jumbo aside, the EEOC hearing seemed to be just a little one-sided. Oh I'm just kidding. It was actually very one-sided. The invited meeting participants were basically opposed to the use of criminal records. Really? Uh, the government uses background checks (and a lot of them) and the EEOC has been a part of our nation's government since 1964. If you do the math that's 47 years! A little contradictory, don't you think?
I must continue, don't stop me now. So where was the representation from the employer perspective? What about the companies who have background screening programs in place to help keep their business, employees and customers safe? Employers use background checks for many reasons, including for specific types of jobs and in industries where background checks are mandatory. And there are businesses that do give people a second chance. In short, background screening serves a valuable and bona fide purpose, especially when it comes to reducing risk and promoting a safe work environment.
Most employers know they cannot discriminate against applicants or place an absolute “ban” on hiring everyone with a criminal record. Guidelines are in place so companies can make individual applicant assessments and hire/non-hire decisions based on the nature of the offense, time passed since conviction and the job position.
In the meantime, employers should continue to comply with federal and state laws that impact the employment screening process along with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
We'll keep you updated as any new developments surface.
To view a webcast and obtain additional details of the meeting, click here.