In April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated their 25 year old policy making it harder for employers to use background checks to systematically rule out hiring anyone with a criminal conviction.
The change says, under Title VII of our civil rights laws, employers may not deny employment based on a conviction except when the offense is job-related. With this standard, employers can protect their business interests and safety on the job, while qualified workers can still have a fair chance at the job.
According to a New York Times article, the commission said that while employers may legally consider criminal records in hiring decisions, a policy that excludes all applicants with a conviction could violate employment discrimination laws because it could have a disparate impact on racial and ethnic minorities.
The EEOC voted 4-to1 to adopt the new policy. This step updates the restrictions in a tough job market and an era where more than 65 million Americans have a criminal background that could make it harder for them to get work.
The commission also says, in part, that employers were prohibited from treating applicants with the same criminal records differently because of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
The agency calls for employers to assess job applicants individually - taking into account the nature of the violation and how long ago it occurred.In the NY Times article, they noted "a blanket exclusion can be discriminatory, the commissioners noted that if current incarceration rates remained unchanged, about one in 17 white men are expected to serve time in prison during their lifetime, compared with one in six Hispanic men and one in three African-American men."
"National data supports a finding that criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin," the agency said in a quote to the newspaper.
The original EEOC policy was issued in 1987.