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Criminal Background Checks Remain on the EEOC's Radar

If you are considering using arrest or conviction records to aid in your hiring decisions, do not do so without a reason connecting the offense to the job, and without the input of employment counsel versed on these issues.

September 12, 2012

Four months ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued its Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII. That Guidance prohibits employers from implementing broad-based blanket exclusions on any individuals with an arrest or criminal history. Instead, it provides that the consideration of criminal convictions requires a targeted screen that considers at least the nature of the crime, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job, and then must provide an opportunity for an individualized assessment to determine if the policy as applied is job related and consistent with business necessity.

Last week, the EEOC issued its Draft Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012 – 2016, which provides that the identification, investigation, and litigation of systemic discrimination cases—pattern or practice, policy, and/or class cases where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company, or geographic area—is a top strategic priority for the agency.

On Sept. 10, these two issues came together. The Nashville Business Journal [hat tip: employeescreenIQ Blog] reported that the EEOC will likely file a lawsuit against Dollar General Corp., challenging that its criminal background check policy has a "disparate impact" on black job candidates and employees. Apparently, Dollar General Corp.'s policy "excludes from employment individuals with certain criminal convictions for specified periods." This lawsuit comes on the heels of a $3.13 million settlement paid earlier this year by Pepsi to settle litigation with the EEOC over hiring policies that excluded anyone who had been arrested pending prosecution.

Needless to say, the EEOC continues to take a long, hard look at hiring practices—such as the use of arrest and conviction records—because of their potential adverse impact against African Americans and Hispanics. If you are considering using arrest or conviction records to aid in your hiring decisions, do not do so without a reason connecting the offense to the job, and without the input of employment counsel versed on these issues.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.