The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has set its sights on a common business practice: The use of criminal background checks on job applicants.
It’s an initiative that’ll affect a huge number of employers — according to a 2010 SHRM study, 92% of companies perform some kind of criminal background check.
The EEOC’s concern: That the practice of checking criminal records may have a “disparate impact” on minorities.
The agency recently held a hearing on the issue. The meeting was designed to “identify and highlight employers’ best practices, ways in which arrest and conviction records have been used appropriately, and current legal standards,” according to an EEOC press release.
Several speakers pointed to successful organizations that made it a point to hire former offenders. Others spoke of the social consequences of barring former offenders from re-entering the workforce and the unreliable nature of many criminal offense databases.
No formal action was taken at the hearing. But you can bet the EEOC’s going to issue some kind of guidance that could affect your recruiting and hiring practices.
The big question: If you use criminal checks as part of your screening process, could you justify that practice? If you can make a strong case that the process assures workplace safety or is necessary to determine whether a candidate is qualified for a specific job, you’re probably on solid ground.
But if you can’t tie the practice to a specific business need, it might be time to think about dropping that part of your screening process.