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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a press release this week announcing it reached a settlement with a background screening company over the company’s pre-employment screening services . According to the press release, the company is a consumer reporting agency (CRA), that “screens applicants for hundreds of companies nationwide.” …

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Compliance Employment Background Checks

For those interested in staying up-to-date with the latest in compliance for pre-employment background screening and the laws that affect your use of employment background checks, follow our publication, BTW: Your Guide to Staying Out of Hot Water. This compliance resource has been created by our VP of Compliance and General Counsel, Angela Preston, and is a must-read for human resources and security professionals.

Building a Smarter Sharing Economy with Background Checks

It’s nice to share. At least that’s what we learned as kids. But for some people, sharing is more than just nice—it’s a way to make a buck. I’m talking about the sharing economy, which Forbes estimates at $3.5 billion this year, with growth exceeding 25%. Read More

Employers’ Hands are Tied: New Washington D.C. Law Goes Beyond Ban the Box

With over a year of debate and some last minute amendments, the District of Columbia’s Council passed a ban-the-box law that includes its own unique list of considerations before an employer can withdraw an offer of employment based on criminal history. Read More

Congress Criticizes the EEOC’s Policy on Background Checks

Congress is showing signs of life in the constant fight for employers to conduct reasonable background checks. Representative Tim Walberg, R, Mich., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, held the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s feet to the fire in a hearing on September 17, 2014. Read More



 

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EEOC Policy on Background Checks

Congress is showing signs of life in the constant fight for employers to conduct reasonable background checks. Representative Tim Walberg, R, Mich., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, held the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s feet to the fire in a hearing on September 17, 2014. The hearing focused on three recently introduced bills aimed to increase the accountability and transparency of the EEOC and to offer employers limited protections in the use of criminal history. [...]

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BMW Questions EEOC Background Screening Practices

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Or so thinks BMW, who has asked a federal court to compel the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to produce documents relating to any policy, guideline, standard or practice used by the workplace bias watchdog in weighing the criminal conviction records of applicants looking to work for the agency.

The Case

You might recall that EEOC is suing BMW Manufacturing Co. LLC for their use over their use of criminal background checks in hiring which they allege discriminate against minorities. Here’s a quick recap. [...]

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Jenny-Yang-EEOC

Jaqueline Berrien is leaving Washington and her post as the Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Insert your own emoticon here. President Obama announced today that she’ll be replaced by Vice Chair, Jenny Yang. Congratulations are in order for Yang, who is the first Asian-American to chair the agency.

Yang was the favorite to replace Berrien when she was appointed Vice Chair in 2014—just one year after her appointment to the Commission. Yang’s term expires July 1, 2017. Yang is known for her work in the non-profit sector as well as her work as a litigator and partner with Washington-based plaintiff law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll P.L.L.C where she represented employees. Her firm Cohen Milstein represented workers in the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. gender discrimination litigation. [...]

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Judge: Texas Can't Sue EEOC for Criminal Background Check Guidance

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled that the state of Texas cannot challenge the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) guidance on criminal background checks because the state is not presently at risk of being penalized for refusing to adopt the policy. You might recall that this suit was filed last November by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a legal action which challenged the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “enforcement guidance” that limits the use of criminal records during the hiring process.  

Those who conduct employment background checks should read on to learn why this case was so important, but why you shouldn’t despair over the ruling. [...]

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Nearly 600 human resources professionals opened up to EmployeeScreenIQ about how they use employment background checks to make hiring decisions and their candid feedback is detailed in our just-released, fifth annual survey of U.S. based employers. The new report looks at how companies manage the process of employment screening, their practices concerning Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) guidance, candidates’ self-disclosure of criminal records and how they address adverse findings.

In the past few years, the EmployeeScreenIQ Trends Survey has become a benchmark many employers use to evaluate their background screening policies and practices. This year’s survey provides a unique cross-section of opinions and insights from an assortment of organizations and is a must-read for HR professionals that want to learn about what their industry peers are doing.

Today, we’d like to analyze how employers are adapting to the 2012 EEOC guidance on employers’ use of criminal background checks. [...]

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Earlier this week, the Sixth Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling granting summary judgment to Kaplan in a high profile lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC v. Kaplan Higher Education Corp.) over their use of employment credit reports. First and foremost, we want to congratulate our good friend Pam Devata and her colleague at Seyfarth Shaw who have done a wonderful job on this case since it was originally filed.

You might recall that the EEOC lost its case in the lower court because the research conducted by their expert witness (which concluded that credit reports have a disparate impact on minorities) was flawed. And without that research, the EEOC’s case fell apart. The judge basically indicated that without reliable statistical evidence of discrimination, the EEOC’s hard line enforcement doesn’t stand up in court.

This case is particularly important for those that conduct pre-employment credit reports as well as those concerned about the EEOC’s perspective on employment background checks.

Now, let’s dissect the ruling here. [...]

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Assessing the Impact of Criminal Background Checks

As many of your know, I had the privilege of providing testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at their hearing on the impact of criminal background checks and the EEOC’s conviction policy on the employment of Black and Hispanic workers in December of 2012.

After great debate and deliberation, the commission released their official statements regarding the hearing in mid-February. I’ve been dissecting the material for a couple weeks now and there is simply no way to give you all of the highlights and lowlights. Instead, I’d like to focus on the conclusion (below) drawn by Commissioner Peter N. Kirsanow (joined by Vice Chair Thernstrom and Commissioner Gaziano), in which I’ve highlighted several key points.

The last part of their conclusion says it all for me: “The EEOC seems to live in a magical world where forcing employers to hire a person they do not want to hire because he may be untrustworthy or dangerous has no costs. But just because the EEOC does not see the cost doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

No one wants a truly reformed ex-offender to be forever unemployed. The question is whether this Guidance is the best way, or even a reasonable way, of increasing employment among ex-offenders. The EEOC should also remember that employers’ interests should be taken into account as well. After all, they are not the ones who broke the law. “I was complying with the EEOC’s Guidance” is not much of a defense in a negligent hiring lawsuit. Although the Guidance does not prohibit the use of criminal background checks, it strongly discourages their use and encourages employers to err on the side of hiring ex-offenders.

In many cases, the Guidance encourages employers to hire an ex-offender against their better judgment. If that were not so, employers would be leaping to hire ex-offenders without being prodded by the EEOC. Whether the employer fears the ex-offender will steal from the business or harm a customer, it is foolish to push him to override his judgment, especially when sixty percent of ex-offenders will recidivate.

EEOC Commissioner Lipnic and Ms. Miaskoff both portrayed this guidance as a mere refinement of the 1987 Guidance, rather than a sharp departure. But then why would EEOC Commissioner Lipnic state that a blanket rule against hiring felons would no longer be permissible? That is a sharp departure from previous practice.

Additionally, the effort the EEOC has put into publicizing this Guidance, taken in conjunction with the many lawsuits it has filed over the last few years regarding the use of criminal history in hiring, suggests that the EEOC will be interpreting and enforcing the Guidance more aggressively than it has in the past. 

The EEOC and various groups representing ex-offenders will argue that a criminal record should not be a life-long scarlet letter. If ex-offenders cannot find employment, they are more likely to reoffend. Fair enough. But the burden of rehabilitation shouldn’t fall on private companies. If a company believes that an applicant is the best person for a job regardless of their criminal record, they will hire them. If they wouldn’t hire the person with a criminal record but for the fear of an EEOC investigation, the employment market is distorted and a cost is imposed on the company.

Griggs imposes this sort of regime on companies with regard to race and the use of tests and education requirements, but at least Title VII was clearly enacted to prohibit racial discrimination. Despite the Guidance’s invocation of disparate impact theory, the main goal is to increase the employment of ex-offenders. Title VII was definitely not enacted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of criminal history. If the country wants to shift the cost of criminal rehabilitation onto private employers, Congress should pass a statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of criminal history. Otherwise, this is outside the EEOC’s purview.

The Guidance will have other costs too. For small companies that have the resources to hire attorneys, figuring out how to comply with the Guidance will cost several thousand dollars – money that could have been used to hire a new employee. For large companies, complying with the Guidance will add another level of inefficiency to hiring. In an effort to avoid the eye of the EEOC, companies may avoid using background checks and simply hire only the number of blacks they need to avoid scrutiny – and no more. The EEOC seems to live in a magical world where forcing employers to hire a person they do not want to hire because he may be untrustworthy or dangerous has no costs. But just because the EEOC does not see the cost doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I don’t believe that the EEOC went out of their way to hatch a sinister plan to systematically punish employers. However, that might just be my naivete. If they did, that’s a much bigger problem. This past summer, I offered 5 suggestions for what can be done to allay employment background check discrimination concerns. It would be great if all interested parties got together and crafted a workable solution for all involved.









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EEOC Guidelines Employment Background Checks

Despite the two years that have passed since the EEOC clarified its guidance on the use of criminal background checks, there’s still a lot of confusion out there. I am hearing from many employers struggling with how to draft and implement a background screening policy that 1) protects their organization 2) is fair to job applicants, and 3) will stand up to an EEOC enforcement action. Below are a just a few of the questions that I’ve been hearing recently.

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