On April 25, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new Enforcement Guidance on use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions.
As a result, the new EEOC Enforcement Guidance aims to prohibit employers from using “blanket prohibitions” against hiring anyone with any kind of a criminal records, no matter how old the conviction and no matter what the prior offense may have been. When making employment decisions based on conviction records, employers should take a three (3) factor approach:
- The nature or gravity of the offense or conduct;
- The time elapsed since the offense, conviction; and/or completion of the sentence; and
- The nature of the job sought or held.
More specifically, the Enforcement Guidance provides two circumstances in which an employer’s criminal conviction policy will “consistently meet” Title VII’s “job-related” and consistent with business necessity” defense. According to the EEOC, these circumstances include:
- employers who are able to validate their use of background screening policies and practices as a business necessity will meet the defense, or;
- develop a targeted, three (3) factor screening approach (as outlined above), and provide subjects with criminal records an opportunity for an “individualized assessment.”
Other defenses for employers to consider involve compliance with federal or state laws that are specific to their business. For instance, the FDIC Act requires banks to conduct criminal background checks on applicants and restricts their ability to hire individuals with certain conviction histories. Under these circumstances, this would be valid defense for claim of discrimination brought by an applicant or employee under title VII.
With the new EEOC Enforcement Guidance in place, here are some best practice tips and action steps for employers to consider:
Best Practice tips for employers:
- Eliminate policies and practices that impose blanket prohibitions to employment based on any conviction;
- Do not request arrest records from applicants;
- Educate and train hiring managers and decision-makers about appropriate use of conviction history in hiring and promotion, and separation;
- Revise screening procedures to ensure that they are job related and consistent with business necessity;
- Do not ask applicants for disclosure of convictions that are not job related and consistent with business necessity, and;
- Keep information about applicants’ and employees’ conviction history confidential.
Employer Action Steps:
- Review background screening policies and practices in light of the new guidance, and;
- Make adjustments needed to the extent practices cannot be justified as job related and consistent with business necessity, and;
- Recruiters and job interviewers must be trained in connection with the EEOC’s Guidance in order to be credible witnesses in any challenge the employer’s hiring, promotion, or separation decision-making.