Health / Safety / Risk Mgmt
Employers are facing greater scrutiny than ever in their screening and selection processes. Criminal background checks are one of the biggest areas coming under fire.
It is estimated that 1 in 3 adults in the United States will be arrested before age 23 for something other than minor traffic violations. If that’s true, employers who take a “no hire” hard-line to applicants with any criminal history are going to struggle to find talent for their organization.
Add to this the “Ban the Box” movement and the recent EEOC press release on this subject – and it becomes clear that employers have to find better ways to address criminal history in hiring decisions.
Employers are responsible to provide a safe workplace for employees and visitors. Employers are responsible to provide safe and trustworthy products/services to their customers. And employers are liable and accountable if an employee causes hurt or harm to the workplace or to employees, customers or visitors. Accordingly, they are expected to know the relevant history of their employees.
That’s why there is no questioning the importance of criminal background checks in the workplace. This isn’t a plea to eliminate the screenings altogether.
However, the mere existence negative information in an applicant’s criminal history should not solely be enough to reject a qualified applicant. And in this climate of heightened scrutiny, it can’t be! Employers must dig deeper to determine if there is a legitimate business necessity for removing a qualified applicant from consideration based on negative information in their criminal history.
We’ve heard over and over that employers need to consider 1) the nature and gravity of the offense, 2) how much time has passed since the conviction and/or sentence time served, and 3) the nature of the job. These criteria are all still valid as the guide for employers to adhere to when assessing applicants with negative information in their criminal history.
Here are a few more practices to ensure appropriateness and fairness in evaluating applicants with negative information in their criminal history:
Learn the full story. Sometimes there are mitigating circumstances beyond what the background check report provides. Have the applicant write a letter providing the details surrounding the event. This kind information may be public record through the courts so you can verify it, if you have serious doubts or questions. Allow the applicant to share in their own words what he/she learned from the incident to see if time has granted wisdom and better perspective.
Review each issue with a committee. It isn’t wise for one person to shoulder the entire burden or liability of the decision to reject an applicant based on criminal history. Convene the hiring manager, someone from HR or legal, and a neutral party (the HR assistant or someone similar that is accustomed to handling highly sensitive and confidential information). Let the group review, discuss and debate it. If you have a high volume of applicants, this committee may need to meet a few times monthly. Also, make sure there is an appeals process which moves all the way up the chain to the CEO or owner. It usually won’t be necessary to use it, but it is good for everyone to know recourse exists.
Create a conditional approval system. Perhaps instead of saying “yes” or “no” to the applicant, you can give a “maybe”. Put a procedure in place to allow the person to work in a position for a trial period with structured supervision. This gives you the opportunity to see how the person performs without him/her having ultimate, unfettered responsibility for the function. The checks/balances will safeguard against potential mishaps and limit some of the employer’s liability. Your approval system should also allow rejected applicants to reapply after a certain period of time so the answer becomes “not right now” instead of “never” to applicants with negative information in their criminal history.
These won’t absolve you from liability. Even with best practices and intentions, it is possible your decisions will cause adverse impact. If you notice a pattern in your background check practices is causing adverse impact for a protected class, you need to examine it closely. Just remember that all discrimination is not unlawful. Ask yourself the same tough questions an outside legal entity will ask if your practices are ever challenged. Make sure the standards and principles you are upholding are worth the liability risk – and if not, have the courage to change.
People don’t necessarily “deserve” 2nd chances – but equal opportunity is their right. We are all guilty of mistakes in judgment at times in our lives, even if our error didn’t result in criminal charges. As an employer, be mindful of this. Grant other people the same mercy you would for want yourself or your loved one when the situation allows. Don’t let antiquated background screening practices become a hindrance to finding, hiring, developing and promoting talent in your organization.
Buzz Rooney is a practicing HR Professional with over 10 years experience in the production, manufacturing and retail industries. She currently works for a large retail franchise handling employee relations, health benefits, COBRA, wellness, leave of absence and compliance.
Buzz has Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies with a focus on Organizational Communication and Leadership as well as a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management. She is also a part-time HR consultant offering resume writing, basic management coaching, process improvement and compliance assistance services.
When not working or writing or researching, Buzz is a single mom with 2 young children living in North Carolina. She enjoys mindlessly watching television, spending time with friends and family, reading, eating and sleeping.
Read more of her writings, connect and contact her through her blog’s website: The Buzz on HR (www.thebuzzonhr.com)
Hiring Our Heroes Employment Fairs - Ongoing - | NationwideTuesday, 19 February 2013 00:00
Gateway Analytics Network : Business Planning & Analysis 2013 | InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta, 3315 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30326Thursday, 23 May 2013 08:00
Add Your Event for Free | OnlineThursday, 13 December 2012 00:00
Global Energy Career Expo Aberdeen 2013 | Aberdeen, United KindgomWednesday, 12 June 2013 10:00
Did you know...
The 77 million people that make up the US small business workforce would rank as the 17th most populous country in the world, just ahead of Iran;
Recruiting / HR Jobs
We have 234 guests and no members online
* The Lounge Podcast *
Read More Articles
- Cowardly Performance Management
- Financial Literacy Education
- Fact Sheet : Employment & Wages Under Federal Law During Natural Disasters & Recovery
- The Diversity Recruitment Marketing Best Practices Checklist - Free PDF
- How And When to Use Non-Compete Agreements Appropriately
- WANT TO GRAB THEM BY THE THROAT AND KNOCK THEM SENSELESS?
- Why Employees Resist Change