Confusion Regarding New 2012 EEOC Background Check Guidelines

EEOC’s new background check guidelines, detailed in April 2012, have caused confusion for employers, particularly when it comes to making hiring decisions on criminal history.

With the guidelines, which are not legally binding, mind you, but can be used if a former employee or candidate takes a company to court for discrimination, were not revised since 1990, the new recommendations address blanket hiring and improper use of screenings. Rather than being rejected outright, applicants should be allowed a chance to explain their criminal backgrounds, while employers are discouraged to ask about prior convictions on an application and should consider evaluating the nature of the crime with the duties of the job.

Why are such measures important? As KSTP in St. Paul, Minn., pointed out last week, not abiding by these guidelines increases the chances that an employer is violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

WSPA, in October 2012, highlighted a similar issue. In South Carolina, we pointed out, judges and attorneys were working with local employers to reduce this level of discrimination.

On the other hand, NPR found out that, not long after the EEOC introduced its new rules, employers were taking new and far more detailed measures to exclude candidates. Along with still using criminal history as blanket denial, social media was playing a greater role in screenings and hiring decisions.

KSTP, over the past month, reiterated the steps employers can take to continue being compliant with local laws and EEOC recommendations. Specifically, employers should notify applicants of denial and prove that a related criminal charge was the cause of this decision.

On the other hand, the National Review sheds light on another concern regarding the EEOC’s new standards. That is, in some rare cases, the organization’s recommendations clash with state laws, and as a result, an employer is caught in a bind regarding which set of regulations to follow.

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