Anyone Think Employment Screening Legislation is Hypocritical?
May 5, 2011
I’ve been thinking about all of the legislation (both enacted and proposed) and hearings designed to blunt the efficacy of background checks lately. Issues such as the “proper” use of criminal records, credit reports and efforts to “ban the box”. And my pervasive thought is that this legislation is both hypocritical and championed by populist sentiment. These laws consistently rely on a small minority of abuses and anecdotal evidence.
Do we really think for a second that our politicians, whether Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner, don’t perform thorough background checks on their employees? And do we think that those background checks might be even more stringent than what the average employer would require? The same can be said of the EEOC. Now, they would counter by saying that they have a need to know this information about their employees before making an informed decision. And I would wholeheartedly agree with them. Does anyone question what they can and can’t use and what is fair game and what is not? Trust me, the biggest abusers of onerous and burdensome background checks is our federal government. Private sector practices pale in comparison. Lastly, why are the same people who are calling for curbs on background checks the same people that are regularly calling for mandatory background checks when things go wrong? You can’t have it both ways.
Recent laws designed to curb the use of credit histories for employment screening purposes in Illinois and Maryland seem to emphasize my point about the populist sentiment. Have you seen how many exemptions they include? How many employers that aren’t in these exempted categories were running credit reports in the first place? These laws appear to cow to public pressure without really changing things at all. These exemptions weren’t included by accident.
So before designing laws that the government is not prepared to follow through on for themselves, it would be great to address some real solutions to these problems. Why do 65 million people in this country have criminal records? What programs can we develop that make it easier for employers to hire those that have truly been rehabilitated?