By Larry Hannappel
The nationwide talent shortage has prompted some employers to rethink hiring people with a criminal background, reflecting a movement to provide jobs to workers looking for a second chance.
A background check, of course, can be one of the most important tools in finding the best job candidates. (Apprentice Personnel has the highest level of background technology available today and regularly conducts background checks on candidates, as required by our many customers). Such a check may include information from multiple sources, including credit reports, employment verifications, and criminal record searches.
If you’re considering a candidate with a criminal history and are doing your own background checks, it’s important to make sure they’re not discriminatory.
Dollar General recently learned that lesson the hard way. It was ordered to pay $6 million by a federal judge who decided the company’s background check policies discriminated against African Americans, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The case was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which alleged Dollar General denied employment to African American candidates at a significantly higher rate than white applicants based on criminal background checks. Dollar General said it believed the allegations were unfounded but settled nonetheless.
Regardless, the court ruling and fine serve as good reminders for employers to review whether their criminal background check policies and procedures automatically disqualify candidates based on specific previous convictions.
Under Title VII, employers must prove past criminal behavior would directly impede a candidate’s ability to perform a job before rejecting their application. Most drug convictions, for example, don’t relate to a candidate’s ability to work as, say, a janitor.
Last year, the Society of Human Resource Management announced its Getting Talent Back to Work pledge — an initiative which encourages employers to hire the formerly incarcerated. About 600 businesses, including Fortune 100 companies — have since taken SHRM’s pledge, the organization says.