EEOC Updates Guidance on use of Criminal Records in Employment Decisions

Employee background check, pre-employment criminal background checkThis week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated guidelines regarding employers’ use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions. The ruling was made pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The new guidance updates and clarifies the EEOC’s previous policy, in an effort to help job seekers, employees and employers. The report discusses how using criminal history reports could violate Title VII, how federal court decisions analyzing Title VI as applied to criminal records, compliance with other federal laws that restrict or prohibit employing individuals with certain criminal records, and the differences between treatment of arrest and conviction records, among other topics.

While little of the guidance document is new, it does consolidate a series of documents in one place. One HR group spokesperson said it does not appear “to impose a one-size fits-all set of rules” and seems to consider employers’ disparate needs and concerns when using criminal background checks for pre-employment screening.

However, there appear to be potential conflicts between this document and state laws that require criminal background checks in certain industries and positions.

Among the groups showing support for the new guidance include civil rights law groups. One issued a statement saying that it will “greatly reduce the misuse of criminal history background checks to deny employment to persons of color,” because the guidance strengthens enforcement efforts against employers who are not using criminal background checks properly.

A Q and A page on the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance can be found here. It reinforces that Title VII does not prohibit employers from obtaining criminal background reports on job applicants.

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