Page is loading...

Need to Check an Employee’s Criminal Background? Tread Carefully

Federal laws do not prohibit employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history. But equal employment opportunity (EEO) and federal laws prevent employers from discriminating against job applicants on the basis of this information. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has guidelines that establish the following rules:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from treating people with similar criminal records differently because of their race, national origin, color, sex or religion
  • Title VII also prohibits employers from using policies that screen individuals based on criminal history information if the company’s policies:
    1. significantly disadvantage Title VII-protected persons such as African American and Hispanics; AND
    2. do not help the employer accurately decide if the person is likely to be a responsible, reliable or safe employee.

As the guidelines make clear, even a facially neutral and uniform company policy can be suspect if it disproportionately excludes people of a particular race or national origin. In such a “disparate impact” case, an employer must show that the exclusion is job related. Employers need to remember that while they may disqualify employees on the basis of criminal background checks, such disqualification cannot be applied in a discriminatory way.

Having a uniform background check procedure that complies with state law isn’t enough; the company’s policy also has to comply with complex federal and EEO laws. Employers should consider reviewing their screening processes to determine if there are any risks of disparate impact present.



New Jersey Bedevils Employers With Five New Pro-Employee Laws

January 24, 2020 | Currents - Employment Law

California Federal Court Leaves Retail Employees Holding the Bag

January 21, 2020 | Currents - Employment Law

Amended Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act in Jeopardy? Stay Tuned

December 27, 2019 | Currents - Employment Law, Employee Leave

Chicago Workers to Earn $15 Minimum Wage by 2021

December 16, 2019 | Currents - Employment Law


Do you want to receive more valuable insights directly in your inbox? Visit our subscription center and let us know what you're interested in learning more about.

View Subscription Center
Civil Rights Act
Criminal Background Check
Employment Law
equal employment opportunity
Trending Connect
We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to use cookies.