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EEOC Updates Civil Rights Protections on Criminal Background Checks for Employment
Both critics and fans of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas might be surprised to learn that 2012 marks an anniversary in his career -- one that impacts millions of workers. Twenty-five years ago, under the aegis of then-Chair Thomas, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a sensible, balanced guidance on the use of criminal records in employment.
Last week saw a significant next step. On Wednesday the EEOC updated that guidance, reaffirming and further defining the legal standard: Under Title VII of our civil rights laws, employers may not deny employment based on a conviction except when the offense is job-related. With this standard, employers can protect their business interests and safety on the job, while qualified workers can still have a fair chance at the job.
Now, more than ever, the guidance of the EEOC is sorely needed.
A staggering 65 million U.S. adults carry the stigma of an arrest or conviction, at a time when economic recovery is uncertain and jobs remain scarce. Job seekers desperate for a second chance are stymied at every turn. As one researcher found, job applicants with a criminal record are 50-percent less likely to receive a callback. Meanwhile, the use of background checks over the last decade has grown exponentially, revealing even minor or decades-old convictions. With so much information now available on the Internet, workers are stuck with their past -- even when those records may be inaccurate or misleading.
It's illegal for employers to ban all applicants with criminal records, but these blanket no-hire policies persist, as documented in a report that the National Employment Law Project released last year. For example, Pepsi recently agreed to a $3.13-million settlement for having a blanket policy denying jobs to anyone with an arrest -- even if that arrest never led to conviction and was for a very minor, non-job-related charge. African Americans and Latinos, who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and face high rates of unemployment, are particularly hard-hit by these unfair and illegal no-hire policies.
Guidance can be found http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/convict1.html
See also Updated EEOC Guidance on Criminal Records: Neither the Apocalypse nor the Total Solution by the ACLU -
The EEOC's guidance does not create new law. It explains and reaffirms what the law has required for at least two decades. It says, in a nutshell:
1. Employers cannot deny a job simply because a person has been arrested, because an arrest does not prove that a person engaged in any conduct. Instead, an employer must consider all of the facts and give a person the chance to explain before taking action based on an arrest.
2. Employers cannot automatically refuse to consider applications from people with criminal records. Instead, they can develop targeted screens that filter out applicants whose convictions prove they will not be good employees. In developing those screens, employers must take into account at least the nature of the conviction, the particular duties of the job, and the time that has passed since the conviction.
Read More of the ACLU's opinon at http://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights-womens-rights/updated-eeoc-guidance-criminal-records-neither-apocalypse-nor -
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