New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

Discrimination Through Criminal Background Checks

Author: Alena Shautsova

Freedom from discrimination based on race, color, nationality, religion, sex, age, or disability is an integral part of our civil rights laws. Most businesses are aware that such discrimination is illegal. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently updated a policy that affects how employers use criminal background checks.

According to a recent New York Times article, in 1996, 51 percent of employers ran criminal back ground checks on job applicants. However, today, more than 90 percent of employers do criminal background checks on candidates applying for jobs. The EEOC ruled that while it is legal for employers to consider criminal backgrounds when hiring, they are prohibited from forming discriminatory policies. For example, businesses cannot decide to deny job interviews to all applicants with criminal backgrounds.

The main problem with such exclusions is that they inadvertently discriminate against African Americans and Hispanics who have much higher conviction and incarceration rates than other races. Also when convictions occurred years ago in the past, they may not be relevant to the applicant's job skills, current work experience, and present ability to hold a job. Business must evaluate the details and all factors when considering job candidates.

In exceptions where businesses can exclude all applicants with criminal records, the employer must show that the nature of the job requires and justifies such exclusion.

If you believe that an employer is discriminating against you, whether when applying for a job or while holding a position, speak with a skilled New York discrimination lawyer. Understand your rights and find out whether you need legal representation.

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