Getting rid of collateral penalties for criminals
A blanket refusal to hire workers based on criminal records or credit problems can be illegal if it has a disparate impact on racial minorities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency enforces the nation’s employment discrimination laws.
"Our sense is that the problem is snowballing because of the technology allowing these checks to be done with a fair amount of ease," said Carol Miaskoff, assistant legal counsel at the EEOC.
With millions of adult Americans having criminal records, from underage drinking to homicide, increasingly more job seekers are having a rough time finding work. And more companies are trying to screen out people with bankruptcies, court judgments or other credit problems just as those numbers have swollen during the recession. . . .
If criminal histories are taken into account, the EEOC says employers must also consider the nature of the job, the seriousness of the offense and how long ago it occurred. For example, it may make sense to disqualify a bank employee with a past conviction for embezzlement, but not necessarily for drunken driving.
Most companies tend to be more nuanced when they look at credit reports, weeding out those applicants with bad credit only if they seek senior positions or jobs dealing with money. But if the screening process weeds out more black and Hispanic applicants than whites, an employer needs to show how the credit information is related to the job.
About 73 percent of major employers report that they always check on applicants’ criminal records, while 19 percent do so for select job candidates, according to a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. . . .
This is part of a larger process to reduce the penalties for criminals.
Former felons and their advocates are becoming increasingly assertive in the national debate about crime, claiming that they are being discriminated against not just in matters of voting but also employment and housing.
A movement called "Ban the Box" is urging lawmakers in the District of Columbia and elsewhere to limit or bar the "have you ever been convicted of a crime" question so that ex-felons' applications for jobs, housing and the like aren't rejected out of hand. They point out that "the box" makes it difficult for even well-intentioned ex-criminals to re-establish and integrate themselves into the social mainstream. . . .