We’re starting to see why the EEOC released guidelines on the use of criminal background checks: A 58-year-old customer service worker was recently fired when a background check revealed she’d shoplifted 40 years ago.
Yolanda Quesada got the axe after she received an FBI notice of her background check, according to the Milwaukee Sentinel.
Her employer, Wells Fargo Bank, said it had run background checks on a wide range of employees following “recent legal changes and regulations.”
Quesada had been working at Wells Fargo for five years. According to reports, she was a good employee, winning several certificates of appreciation and performance rewards.
She was never in a position that required her to handle money during her five-year tenure.
Quesada admits she did, indeed, shoplift 40 years ago, but told the Sentinel she’s ashamed of the youthful indiscretion now. “I changed my life. I went to school. I went to college. I didn’t graduate, but I did go and try to be a good person,” she said.
“Because Wells Fargo is an insured depository institution, we are bound by federal law that generally prohibits us from hiring or continuing the employment of any person who we know has a criminal record involving dishonesty or breach of trust,” a bank spokesman told the newspaper.
‘They never let me explain myself’
Here’s the part that’s interesting for HR pros: The bank apparently summarily fired Quesada without any discussion.
“They never let me say what happened, explain myself, nothing,” Quesada told the Sentinel.
That’s the part that runs exactly counter to the guidance EEOC released late last month.
The key to the new rules comes down to two words: Individual assessment.
And the EEOC made it clear: Blanket policies that automatically reject job candidates — and ostensibly, current employees — with criminal records are almost always illegal.
The new rules state that employers have to make employment decisions on people with criminal histories using three criteria. They are:
- The nature and gravity of the offense or conduct
- The time that has passed since the offense or conduct and/or completion of the sentence, and
- The nature of the specific position.
What’s more, the agency “recommends” that employers go through an extensive “individual assessment” on each candidate.
Certainly doesn’t appear that such a process was at work here.
We probably haven’t heard the end of this case. Quesada has lawyered up, and is making noises about legal action. We’ll keep you posted.