Discrimination from Background Checks

About 95 percent of all employers run background checks on their candidates, and half of this amount checks credit history for all candidates. This is a standard employment procedure and all candidates should be prepared for such a screening, but, in recent news, companies that exclude certain pools of applicants based on these background checks, especially where credit and criminal histories are concerned, may be sued for discrimination. According to an article published recently, screening out applicants based on their criminal history or credit score disproportionately affects black and Hispanic job candidates, as well as males. In fact, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has issued a warning statement to employers about basing their hiring decisions solely on this information.

What are some suggestions for employers? Although we had addressed this issue about a month ago, some suggestions from the EEOC to employers include avoid blanket hiring policies and determining whether or not the past crimes or credit history of a candidate correlate to the job duties. Blanket hiring policies relating to background checks include excluding a candidate entirely based on their criminal history and credit score. Essentially, it’s like putting a “No Criminals, No Bad Credit” sign on the job description, regardless of the responsibilities and work environment associated with the job.

The second part, about determining hiring practices based on candidates, is the approach an employer should take to background checks. Screening candidates is only part of the employment procedure to verify information on a resume and from an interview. While outright false information can – and should – cost a candidate a position, should a poor credit history and long past crimes? Considering many more have poor credit due to the current economy than in the past, good credit shouldn’t be a requirement, race or not. As far as criminal history is concerned, if the crime committed has nothing to do with the skills and requirements of the position, the candidate should still be in consideration.