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EEOC & Criminal Histories in the News

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November 13, 2012 Return to News & Events

EEOC & Criminal Histories in the News

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with regulating business under a broad blanket of responsibilities:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.

The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.

Recent Guidelines released by the EEOC have put a greater focus on the use of Criminal Histories as part of the background screening process.  It continues to draw focus in the media.

A January 2012 ruling has found that Pepsi Beverages must pay $3.13 million in restitution as well as make substantive changes to their hiring policies.

The EEOC’s investigation revealed that more than 300 African Americans were adversely affected when Pepsi applied a criminal background check policy that disproportionately excluded black applicants from permanent employment.  Under Pepsi’s former policy, job applicants who had been arrested pending prosecution were not hired for a permanent job even if they had never been convicted of any offense.

A key phrase in the above passage may be the last sentence:  "...arrested pending prosecution were not hired for a permanent job even if they had never been convicted of any offense."

The challenges of Human Resource Departments are significant and with the rapid change and evolution of rules and regulations controlling background screening only add to the pressure.  Internal policies must be under continuous review and held under the demanding light of the EEOC.

During the course of the EEOC’s investigation, Pepsi adopted a new criminal background check policy.  In addition to the monetary relief, Pepsi will offer employment opportunities to victims of the former criminal background check policy who still want jobs at Pepsi and are qualified for the jobs for which they apply.

Another national brand, Dollar General, faces the potential of fine and penalty under an EEOC investigation.  An article, dated September 10, 2012, on the Nashville Business Journal website, reports:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has alleged that the company’s criminal background check policy has a “disparate impact” black job candidates and employees, a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Dollar General hiring policy "excludes from employment individuals with certain criminal convictions for specified periods..."

As the EEOC continues to investigate companies such as Pepsi Beverages and Dollar General, businesses should pay attention.  Large or small, companies without understanding the EEOC guidelines as they pertain to the use of Criminal Histories within a pre-employment background check could, potentially, pay a heavy price.

Utilizing a third-party background screening company, such as, is a smart course of action for any company of any size.  They have the knowledge and experience to work within the guidelines that regulate background screening.  Whether it is a national law or a local one, can assist any Human Resource Department in setting up a fully compliant hiring policy as well as provide the reports and documents required to make safe, legal, and compliant decisions on new hires.

This has been a News Publication - All rights reserved is “An Information Enterprises Solution”

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