New equality guidelines issued by the federal government could force employers to hire more workers with criminal backgrounds.
Companies are warned about rejecting minority applicants who have committed a felony or other offense by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in their guidelines.
The EEOC advise to companies who have a policy that excludes people for employment based on criminal records is to get rid of or change the policy. The changes are being applauded by those who’ve noted that in many cases, a felony conviction becomes a life sentence, increasing crime due to the inability of convicted felons to find jobs or support their families after a period of incarceration.
Civil rights laws already prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants who are from different ethnic backgrounds but have matching criminal histories, according to the EEOC.
The latest guidelines from the EEOC were given because there was concern that employers might be declining job applicants from minority groups, such as African Americans or Hispanics, because there are a larger number of these minority groups being arrested for crimes.
“There is no Federal law that clearly prohibits an employer from asking about arrest and conviction records,” the EEOC’s website states.
“However, using such records as an absolute measure to prevent an individual from being hired could limit the employment opportunities of some protected groups and thus cannot be used in this way.”
The agency’s commissioners approved the report in a 4-1 vote in April 2012.
Commissioner of the EEOC, Constance Barker, who was the only one voting against the new guidelines, said “The only real impact the new guidance will have will be to scare business owners from ever conducting criminal background checks.”
Commissioner Barker was nominated by President Barack H. Obama to serve a second term to expire on July 1, 2016. The nomination to the second term was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on September 26, 2011.
She added that the EEOC’s major shift in guidance from the past 22 years had “far exceeded its authority as a regulatory commission.”
Studies published by the University of Chicago Legal Forum and the Journal of Law and Economics show businesses are much less likely to hire minority applicants when background checks are banned. This problem is part of what many experts believe to have led to astronomical unemployment rates in the African American community. Black men, who are most impacted by laws that led to mass incarceration, typically have the highest unemployment rate among all Americans.