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EEOC says some background checks are employment discrimination

"Have you ever been convicted of a crime other than a speeding violation?" Many Colorado residents are familiar with this popular job application question, which usually pops up at the end of the form. For some people it is just another question to check the "no" box next to, but for many others it could signal the end of their hopes for gaining employment. Now, a recent report has detailed how the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission approaches these types of background check questions, and it really isn't good news for potential employees.

According to the EEOC, some background checks can be racist. That is not to say that employers don't have the right to conduct criminal background checks on potential employees, but the EEOC expressed concern that some checks are conducted without undertaking a complete evaluation of an applicant's total qualifications. If that is the case then employers who approach background checks in this manner may be engaged in a form of employment discrimination.

Our readers who are familiar with previous posts here probably know by now that federal employment laws prohibit many forms of discrimination in the workplace. The Civil Rights Act in particular was intended in part to make sure that employers do not discriminate based on a person's race.

It appears that there is a very fine line for employers to walk when they want to do a background check on a job applicant. No one is disputing an employer's right to do so, but they may want to double-check that their background check policies are in line with the latest guidelines from the EEOC. Because when a job applicant suspects that they have been discriminated again, the end result for the employer could be a lawsuit.

Source: The Raw Story, "U.S. employment commission: Some criminal background checks are racist," Stephen C. Webster, June 12, 2013

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