The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is on a roll. The same week that it issued hiring protection for gender non-conforming individuals, it updated guidance on criminal background checks that had not been revisited for 25 years. Under the new rules, employers may not deny employment based on a conviction except when it is relevant to the job. It is also unlawful to enact blanket no-hire policies against those with an arrest record, especially when an arrest did not lead to a conviction.
“The last guidance was written before anyone even knew what the Internet was, and a criminal background check was rarely used because it required so much personal attention to detail,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “This update reflects the reality of a 21st century workplace, where background checks are widely performed and applicants are thoughtlessly denied en masse.”
A shocking 65 million people in the United States have an arrest or conviction record that can show up on a routine criminal background check. While the national unemployment rate is at 8.2 percent, more needs to be done to ensure more people have the chance to be considered for employment. The disproportionate impact on African Americans is clear, with their unemployment rate at 14 percent.
“Our criminal justice system is deeply biased against people of color, and that disparity can carry over to the job search,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, in a statement. These guidelines will discourage employers from discriminating against applicants who have paid their debt to society.”