The hot button topic right now for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is whether to allow criminal background checks to factor into an employment decision. The EEOC feels that minorities are being discriminated against due to a previous criminal record, 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 a previous criminal record. Employers are currently seeing an increase in demand for completing criminal background checks in the workforce. The majority of federal contracts require background checks to be conducted on all employees working on the specific project.
How do organizations balance the requirements for background checks while protecting their organization against discrimination claims? The first step is to implement and enforce a background screening policy, state why the company does background checks, and determine when employees are subjected to them.
Next, carefully review every criminal record received from your background screening vendor for three crucial criteria:
- Convictions: Was the applicant was actually found guilty, 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 three 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.