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Today, the EEOC will hold a hearing to exam their position on employers’ use of criminal background checks.  They held a similar meeting on employment credit reports late last year, and will no doubt duplicate their “open-minded” approach to weighing each side of the argument fairly.  And by fairly, I mean that they will railroad anyone that disagrees with their concerns that criminal background checks are discriminatory and should be significantly curbed.

Here’s the thing.  Yes, a higher percentage of minorities are arrested and convicted than whites.  But can it be proven that they are arrested and convicted because they are minorities or is it because they were actually engaged in criminal activity?  Further, we definitely have a problem in this country with recidivism whereby those convicted of crimes often return to criminal activity again and again.  Many suggest that the primary reason for such recidivism is that they cannot find jobs because employers will not hire people with criminal records.

Fine. I’ll acknowledge these arguments.  I’ll also tell you that I am all for rehabilitation and programs designed to get convicts back to work.  However, the EEOC would prefer to keep employers in the dark about someone’s past and risk the chance of a host of criminal activity from theft to murder to correct the problem.

And this is where I think the EEOC is dead wrong.  Just ask Lucia Bone how she feels about the necessity of criminal background checks.  Her sister was brutally raped and murdered in her own home by a service worker who was not vetted before he was hired.  If the employer would have conducted a background check, the employer would have known that this person was a convicted sex offender.  Tell that to the family of Nan Todor, who was murdered in her Chicago hotel room by a maintenance man who also was not screened.  He too, had serious conviction records that the hotel should have known about.

The EEOC continues to ask how we know that our industry helps employers make sound hiring decisions.  How do you prove a negative?  How can we show that we prevented something from happening if we provided information that caused an employer not to hire someone?

The answer is not to prevent employers from conducting background checks.  After all, does anyone believe that the EEOC doesn’t consider such information before filling a position?  The answer is to invest in programs such as GOSO, an organization that helps convicted felons reintegrate into society.  They help convicts educate themselves, provide resources for battling addiction, find safe places for them to live and teach them how to find jobs.  When I met with GOSO founder and president, Mark Goldsmith last February he told us that he doesn’t blame employers for conducting background checks.  They need to protect themselves.  However, he also said that they people that go through his program as far less likely to return to crime than those that do not have the resources he provides.

There is a job for everyone out there.  But not everyone is qualified for every job.  I hope the EEOC is willing to openly and honestly listen to all sides today.

6 Responses to “Will Today’s EEOC Hearing on Criminal Background Checks Be Fair?”

  1. Ben says:

    Your emotionally charged rethoric misses the point. Currently, human resource person who are completely unqualified to assess risk are making a nationwide practice of disqualifying qualified persons as a result of misdemeanor and outdated convictions.

    The background screening companies sell incomplete and unreliable information. For instance, in many states, domestic battery is injurious physical contact. Other states, domestic battery is any contact that might be “insulting” in nature. Background screeners fail miserably in provided such a complete story. Many people are being subjected to social injustice as a result.

    Foisting slander as some sort of valueable service is disguisting.

  2. Name says:

    I can see both sides being in HR myself but I believe they should put parameters on Criminal ckecks. For instance, violent crimes should be considered. None violent crimes such as fraud (unliess they are in the financial industry or dealing with money), drug use(Thats why they have drug test) DUI’s(unless they are driving for the job) shouldn;t be counted against someone.

  3. Nick Fishman says:

    The problem with your suggestion is that your solution doesn’t work for all scenarios. I know you’ve built in a carve out for the financial industry, but think about IT (one of the most vulnerable areas of any organization). The IT person has the keys to the castle. Wouldn’t it concern you if your new CTO or one of their underlings was convicted of fraud? Here’s another scenario. If a person has been convicted of fraud once, maybe that person would be considered for the job. However, let’s say that person has been convicted of the same or different crimes on three separate occasions?

    There are many factors to be considered and it is important to not that one size does not fit all.

  4. Nick Fishman says:

    I don’t disagree that there can and should be more educational opportunities for the workplace in this regard. However, you are grossly misrepresenting the background screening industry. Yes, there are some companies out there who have a reckless disregard for the real facts. But those folks are few and far between. You can’t indict an entire industry for the wrong doing of a few. That’s why you go after those that abuse the system. Under your logic, the government should get rid of all mortgage brokers because some engaged in mortgage fraud.

  5. Ben says:

    The background screening industry promoted the current attitudes within the current hiring culture. It has always been bad business to unnecessarily deny an otherwise qualified person employment opportunity. When that person is a member of a protected class, bad business becomes unlawful business.

    Why do so many human resource managers completely ignore “business necessity” aspects of criminal records? Why do they think they can get away with pretextual rationalization of how misdemeanors are somehow more “serious” today than they were 15 years ago?

    EEOC will revise their guidelines and many employers are going to find themselves forced into settling discrimination claims in order to become sufficiently educated as to what “business necessity” really means.

    I hope and pray that at least a few of the background screening companies wind up facing very costly collateral litigation.

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