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Job hunters beware -- discrimination can occur in job search

Any of our Denver-area readers who are hunting for jobs right now probably know that it is tough out there. The national unemployment rate stubbornly remains above 8 percent, with the unemployment rate in Colorado largely in line with that number. However, getting a job or even an interview can be much tougher if the potential employer engages in discrimination.

Employers seem to be looking at more and more information about job applicants these days. Some businesses go as far as checking credit histories, driving records, and Facebook pages. There are some obvious reasons for this: a lot of people are putting more information about themselves in the public arena; and with the current economic conditions, most employers have much larger pools of applicants to sort through, meaning that hiring becomes more selective.

The most common form of background investigation for employers is the criminal record check. This is usually the starting point for sifting through potential employees based on their personal experiences and, in some cases, past mistakes. Criminal background checks can be a huge problem for some people, particularly when a past arrest results in a potential employer dismissing an applicant outright -- even if an arrest did not result in a conviction.

Recently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sought to clarify the correct use of criminal background checks. There is no doubt that such reports can be run, but the information should only be held against a job applicant if a past incident is directly relevant to the position being applied for. And employers should only consider cases that resulted in convictions -- not simply arrests.

The EEOC has stated that the use of criminal background checks for blanket dismissal of potential employees should in most cases to be deemed a form of discrimination. Coloradans who believe this type of undue emphasis has been held against them may have been subject to illegal hiring practices.

Source: kunc.org, "How Much Can Potential Employers Ask About You?" Alan Greenblatt, May 22, 2012

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