Criminal Records: A Fault in America’s Hiring Decisions When most people are applying for jobs they are usually concerned with whether or not they’ll meet the qualifications in the eyes of the hiring manager or whether or not they’ll make the cut between the remaining candidates. However, there are people who worry about whether or not their past actions and criminal convictions will bar them from even being considered for employment. The sensitive topic that worries so many people is background checks. Should they be used for employment purposes? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been working towards proving that, in some instances, background checks can create a disparate impact on minorities. Disparate impact can happen in the hiring process when neutral policies affecting hiring can adversely impact a protected class of people, such as African Americans or Hispanics. If a company is proven to discriminate in this manner it can cost them thousands of dollars to correct. Also, these background checks merely show you what someone did on paper. They do not reflect the circumstances of the case or even acknowledge what the person has done to right their wrongs. Those who support the use of these background checks say they protect their company and the public from “a problematic employee committing theft or fraud or harming a third party” (Bible). But as our society progresses, we must be mindful of the harm we are doing when trying to protect ourselves. Thus, merely having a criminal conviction should not be the sole reason why an applicant is denied a chance for employment. The main defense for using criminal background checks is “both to protect customers, co-workers, and the public from employees’ potential violent acts and other wrongdoing and to shield themselves from tort liability for negligent hiring and other causes of action stemming from failure to adequately screen job applicants and employees” (EEOC Likely to Update Guidance on Employer use of Criminal Checks). Not only do companies need to make sure that candidates are qualified for the position they are seeking, but they have a duty to make sure an applicant does not pose a threat to the business or third parties such as customers. Richard Mellor, vice president of loss prevention for the National Retail Federation said that “while employers agree that ex-offenders should receive a second chance, employers would be negligent not to perform their due diligence on workers who enter customer’s homes, drive company vehicles, and are placed in positions of trust” (EEOC Likely to Update Guidance on Employer use of Criminal Checks). Supporters for the use of criminal background checks have also found data in regards to the proportions of minorities hired with and without criminal background checks. Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, is hoping that these studies make their way to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which “indicate that when an employer initiates a criminal background check, 12 percent of those hired are black applicants but that when employers’ use of such checks is restricted, the hiring rate for black applicants falls to 3 percent” (EEOC Likely to Update Guidance on Employer use of Criminal Checks). Some companies are taking the protection of their business and their name to another level by rejecting anyone with certain convictions on their criminal record. These companies are using what is known as a blanket policy, which will bar anyone from employment if they have a criminal record. Victoria Lipnic, the Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that “Employers with a blanket policy, such as a bar on hiring any applicant with a past felony conviction, face a problem under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, given the disproportionately high incarceration rates of black and Hispanic individuals and the potential for blanket policies to have a disparate impact based on...
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