The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing multiple major companies for racism over the use of background checks. The federal agencies claims that companies like BMW and Dollar General are engaging in disparate impact practices. The EEOC alleges that a higher percentage of black Americans have a criminal history when compared with whites and refusal of employment based upon background check results are discriminatory.
All employers have the right to mandate that all workers have and keep a clean criminal history, although liberals quickly began lamenting the fates of workers who lost their jobs once it was discovered they had a prior conviction. If a company wants to impose a zero tolerance criminal past policy, they are not breaking the law unless they apply the mandate unfairly.
Public employees routinely undergo background checks upon hiring and are required to report any charges levied against them after being hired. The EEOC has never filed a lawsuit against a school district or a sister federal agency over background checks. School athletic coaches and activities advisers are required to undergo a background check on an annual basis, even if they have coached within the district for decades. Such criminal history polices have disallowed black Americans or other folks considered part of the minority from garnering very meaningful employment.
Dollar General employees do not work with children like coaches do, but they do handle money and must interact with members of the public, some of them children who go into the store alone. Store owners who strive to make sure their customers are safe and that drug dealing won’t likely be conducted on the loading dock are being responsible.
The EEOC lawsuit is based upon Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act prohibits discrimination based upon national origin or race. A statement about the racism lawsuit released by the EEOC stated that the federal agency is seeking both back pay for those denied or terminated from employment and additional standards regarding allegedly discriminatory background checks. If a current worker lied on the section of the employment application which asked about criminal history, they should have no expectation for keeping their job once the deceit was uncovered.
EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien had this to say about the allegedly racist background checks:
“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees on account of their race. Since issuing its first written policy guidance in the 1980s regarding the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions, the EEOC has advised employers that under certain circumstances, their use of that information to deny employment opportunities could be at odds with Title VII.”
Under no circumstances should knowing the criminal history of the people who are responsible for handling your money or property be in violation of any law. The background checks racism claims stem in part from a series of firings at a BMW plant in South Carolina. The EEOC lawsuit states that “dozens” of black workers were fired while in a transitional period that required all employees to re-apply for their jobs and be subjected to a background check. If BMW had fired black or minority workers who had a clean criminal history, then criminal racist behavior would have occurred, but that was just not the case.
I would find it very difficult to believe that an equal number of black employees had any trouble passing the criminal history check with ease. The EEOC’s statements appear to want to create a scenario indicating that the majority of black people you pass on the street probably have some type of conviction in their past. Not a one of my black friends, acquaintances, or co-workers have more than a minor traffic violation on their record – none, nada, zip, zero. I doubt that I just happen to live, work, and play in the only state where black and white people have managed to behave themselves equally well.
Advocates for fair employment who support the EEOC racism lawsuit did make one valid point – what if errors occur? Companies which base their hiring and firing decisions on criminal background checks must make sure to use a reputable agency to conduct the searches and allow employees to present a background from a law enforcement agency to refute errors if necessary.
Employment Discrimination Project for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Director Ray McClain had this to say about the EEOC background checks lawsuit:
“There’s so much information that’s out in cyberspace these days about criminal history records that employers have to be extremely careful about how they evaluate any one report. They need to use a consumer reporting agency that is very careful about not reporting erroneous information. The law requires that the employers show that they have proof that the requirement that they are imposing, that has such a disproportionate impact on minority workers, is job-related and consistent with business necessity. The biggest problem is that [the companies] are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. They’re excluding people who have perfectly satisfactory work ethics in the same job for no reason at all except for the fact that this person made a mistake a long time ago.”
Discovering whether or not an employee has been convicted of a crime is most definitely consistent with a business necessity. Companies with strict standards might lose a potentially good employee now and again, but the risk of hiring a thief, drug addict, child molester, or rapist is reduced substantially by conducting background checks.
McClain’s group wants employers to only consider convictions recent enough to indicate “significant risk” and that criminal records questions be removed from applications forms. The attorney also wants companies to consider job applicants with recent and relevant convictions and give them the opportunity to present evidence of rehabilitation during an interview.
Ah, liberals…sometimes I forget that they want life to be perfect and hand everyone a trophy. We are judged by our actions, and our past, for better or worse, shapes who we are. An employee who was convicted on drug charges two or even ten years ago, may have gotten it together and would make a trustworthy and dedicated worker—or has just gotten better at not getting caught again. I wonder if Mr. McClain would feel the same way if a convicted rapist was employed as his daughter’s volleyball coach—oh wait, the EEOC is only concerned that background checks are racist when used in the private sector.