Back Up the Bus: EEOC Scrutiny and New Local Ordinances Create New Liability for Employers’ Use of Background Checks

By Jezabel Southard

Posted on October 23, 2013

Most employers routinely use criminal background checks as part of their employee vetting process. In its ongoing work to prevent discrimination in hiring, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken significant steps to limit these checks, due to a concern that they may unfairly eliminate a disproportionate number of minority candidates. In fact, the commission in recent months has sued a number of companies in order to drive this point home.

The Impact on Seattle

In conjunction with this EEOC activity, a number of local jurisdictions including the City of Seattle have recently passed legislation that placescertain restrictions on the use of criminal background checks. Specifics of the Seattle law include:

  • Employers may not automatically exclude individuals with an arrest or conviction record from any job performed in whole or substantial part within the city. “Whole or substantial” part is defined as more than 50 percent.
  • Employers must have a legitimate business reason before denying a candidate a position based solely on a criminal conviction record or pending charge.
  • For more information about the City of Seattle ordinance, click here.

While this legislation directly affects Seattle businesses, it also raises questions for other employers, who should be prepared for the possibility of their use of criminal background checks in evaluating job applicants to come under closer scrutiny.

Do the Right Thing

Needless to say, the issue of fairness related to criminal background checks is not a matter to be taken lightly. Nor is the concern around liability.  TERRA Staffing Group will continue to conduct these checks as part of our RightFit™ Screening and Evaluation process, but there will be some changes to the process and how resultant information may be used. In order to ensure legal compliance and protect our clients from risk, we continue to conduct a thorough and thoughtful evaluation and work closely with our clients to make hiring selections that balance out their business needs while maintaining compliance with EEOC and local regulations.

Use the Right Expertise

The TERRA team can be an invaluable resource as you continue to manage and minimize your risk while making the best hiring matches for your organization. Our experts will continue to stay on top of this and other pertinent legal, governmental and business issues. To learn more, contact us today!

Categories: HR and Management Advice, HR Compliance & Labor Laws

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