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Change in Direction on Drug Sentencing May Further Challenge Pre-Employment Background Screening

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June 13, 2017 Return to News & Events

Change in Direction on Drug Sentencing May Further Challenge Pre-Employment Background Screening

Recently Attorney General Sessions reinforced the need for prosecutors to seek maximum sentences on major drug offenses and these changes could further alter the use of criminal histories as part of pre-employment background screening.

The recent ban-the-box movement came into being due to a high level of job applicants not being considered for a position due to checking the “criminal history” box and alleged disparate use of criminal records. Due to the disproportionate incarceration rate for Hispanics and African Americans the issue of the “box” became a civil rights issue. In the last few years the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken steps to “guide” companies regarding the use of criminal background checks as part of pre-employment screening, just as ban-the-box legislation has worked to limit or alter the use of criminal histories in employment vetting.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of states: “The use of criminal background records in pre-employment background screening remains complicated. Many different states and cities have severely restricted the use of criminal records as part of the vetting process.”

The move by Attorney General Sessions marks a significant change in direction for the federal government.

From NBC News (May 13, 17)

The Trump era of drug enforcement has officially arrived, and it sounds a lot like the old days.

The message came this week in the form of a memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to all federal prosecutors: Stop seeking leniency for low-level drug offenders and start seeking the toughest penalties possible.

That's what federal authorities used to do, when the war on drugs fueled the passage of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. But under former President Barack Obama, the Justice Department tried to rein in the use of those statutes, which advocates say were used disproportionately against minorities and led to massive prison overcrowding. (1)

Almeida states: “This recent move by the administration points to how fast policy and law can change, and should raise an alarm to all hiring managers regarding their current pre-employment background screening programs.”

Opposition arose almost immediately with the Sessions announcement.

From (May 12, 17)

"This is a disastrous move that will increase the prison population, exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and do nothing to reduce drug use or increase public safety," Michael Collins, deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement emailed to NPR. "Sessions is taking the country back to the 1980s by escalating the failed policies of the drug war." (2)

Almeida states: “In the end the move by the current administration plays as a wake-up call for hiring managers insomuch that it highlights change being a constant and the potential for direct change affectingcould occur very quickly. With the return to maximum sentences for drug offenses there may be a reaction down the road similar to ban-the-box. Ultimately policy will change and a best practice as employment background checks a hiring manager is working with a well-qualified third-party pre-employment background screening company.” is a third-party background screening company with highly trained operators well versed in the needs and requirements of companies and organizations large and small utilizing public records, such as criminal records, as part of a hiring process. Assisting companies in maintaining full compliance under the law is a central tenet of all client relationships with



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