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EEOC Updates Employer Criminal Background Check Rules

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, today voted 4-1 to approve updated guidelines on how employers may use criminal background checks on job applicants and current workers.   

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) says the EEOC’s action addresses the “stark new realities” of criminal background checks. According to a NELP backgrounder:

An estimated 65 million people in the U.S.—or one in four adults—now have an arrest or conviction record that can show up on a routine criminal background check for employment. Thus, a vast segment of the labor force faces added challenges to finding work—challenges exacerbated in today’s tight economy—due to the proliferation of criminal background checks for employment.

The problem is particularly significant to African Americans and Latinos, who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and face high rates of unemployment.

EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien says the new guidelines clarify and update the EEOC’s longstanding policy concerning the use of “arrest and conviction records in employment, which will assist job seekers, employees, employers and many other agency stakeholders.”

NELP says while it is generally illegal under federal civil rights laws for employers to ban applicants with criminal records, a proliferation of technologies and screening services has led to "higher error rates, inconsistent employer practices and blanket no-hire policies that leave qualified applicants barred from consideration."

Click here for more on the new guidelines from the EEOC and here for more from NELP. 

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