The hot button topic right now for the EEOC (equal employment opportunity commission) is whether to allow criminal background checks to factor into an employment decision. The EEOC feels that minorities are being discriminated against due to previous criminal records, whether they were convicted of the crime or not. The EEOC has gone as far as suing employers they feel have improperly terminated employees due to previous criminal activity. Currently employers are seeing an increase in demand for criminal background checks to be done on their workforce (majority of federal contracts require background checks to be conducted on all employees working on the specific project).
So how do you balance the requirements for background checks while protecting your company against discrimination claims? The first step is to implement and enforce a background screening policy, and state why the company does background checks, and who is subjected to one. Next, carefully review any criminal records received from your background screening vendor for 3 crucial items:
- Convictions: was the applicant actually found guilty/did they plead “no contest” to the crime, or was it just an arrest for which the charges were dropped?
- Length of time: how long has it been since the crime was committed? Is it fairly recent—say, within the last seven years?
- Is the crime related to the job being sought?
If employers follow these 3 simple steps to determine, based on the answers to these questions, if a conviction is worth reporting, they will reduce any negligent hiring claims, as well as discriminatory hiring practices.