Employers Insist on Clean Criminal Background Checks, NELP Study Shows; Policies Result in Blanket Hiring Policies, Discrimination

Two weeks ago, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) put out a press release about a recent study conducted. NELP studied Craigslist ads in five major cities for companies of all sizes. What they found shows that employers of all sizes are essentially implementing blanket hiring procedures through criminal background checks, whether they realize it or not.

In general, the ads cited by NELP show that employers require applicants to have clean backgrounds with no felony or misdemeanor convictions. As a result, NELP came to the conclusion that such ads shut out qualified candidates who have a criminal history of crimes unrelated to the job. On a legal level, they mention such practices violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and cite an EEOC statement from 1987 about such blanket hiring policies disproportionately affecting blacks and Latinos.

Such blanket policies are not exclusive to small operations, however. NELP discovered that larger companies and staffing agencies implemented measures that exclude one-quarter of the adult population, or 65 million individuals.

For examples of such blanket job advertisements, read part of the NELP study.

Employers, on the other hand, see these hiring policies as necessary; they keep thefts and violence out of the workplace. Such reasoning is applied to credit checks: Employees with poor credit history, such as foreclosure, late payments, or bankruptcy, are considered a risk. Rather than taking such a risk with individuals with criminal histories or poor credit, employers simply block them out.

If employers could implement background checks effectively, what should they do? Removing background checks is not logical, as screening each candidate often creates a fuller picture of the individual and verifies information listed on a resume and application. Nevertheless, employers should not block out those with criminal records from the start. As we have explained before, examine each candidate and his or her background before making a hiring decision is ideal and gives those with criminal records a chance to improve themselves.