Employers Must Use Caution When Considering Criminal Histories

November 12th, 2012

Many Minnesota readers probably don’t realize that deciding not to hire someone based only on their criminal history is not permitted. However, the EEOC issued clear guidance earlier this year instructing employers against exactly that.

According to authorities at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, screen applicants based solely on the existence of a criminal history results in discrimination against minorities. Often, the event that shows up on a criminal background check could be a minor crime like a misdemeanor or simply an arrest record, but that might cause employers to choose to hire a different candidate instead.

Under the new rules, this is considered discrimination.

Still, employers are allowed to consider a criminal history as a part of the larger picture of an applicant. The EEOC suggests that employers discuss any criminal issues with the applicant to give them an opportunity to explain the situation.

The EEOC also instructs employers to consider carefully whether the crime listed on the background check relates to the duties of the job. It’s also important to take into account when the crime was committed. If the applicant is looking for a job as a data entry specialist but was turned down because of a petty theft arrest in their teens, the employer may want to reconsider the denial under the EEOC rules.

For job applicants who have a criminal history and are concerned about discrimination, it’s important to know that the existence of a criminal history alone isn’t a reason to be denied a job. If that does happen, an experienced employment law attorney may be able to help correct the error.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Denying employment based on criminal background could lead to suits, feds say,” Ellen Jean Hirst, Nov. 12, 2012.

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