Does the Use of Employment Criminal Records Actually Reduce Discriminatory Hiring?

Two commissioners of the United States Commission on Civil Rights recently wrote to the EEOC with some remarkable findings that the use of employment criminal records may actually reduce discrimination against African Americans – men, in particular:

Employers who check criminal records are more likely to hire African American men.¹

Among employers who conduct background checks, 12% of their last hires were African American, compared to just 3% for those who do not conduct criminal checks.²

These findings from studies cited in the commissioners’ letter provide eye-opening evidence as to just how nuanced the issue of employment screening really is and how the EEOC, in its quest to update its policies on the use of criminal records, has much to consider.

“(The results of these two studies) suggest that, in the absence of criminal background checks, some employers discriminate statistically against black men and/or those with weak employment records,” the commissioners pointed out in their letter to the EEOC.

Think about it: What these studies suggest is that absence an employment background check employers will have no choice but to rely exclusively on an individual’s stated employment record (as reported in a job application) or the employer’s own personal judgments about an individual. If those judgments include how the individual “looks” on the surface – age, sex, race, etc. – there can be far more potential for discrimination than if given concrete objective data about the strength of the individual’s background.

Our experience as a background screening company is that employers want to do the right thing when it comes to hiring and retaining their workers. Running a background check on someone you’re about to hire is the right thing to do on so many levels. Of course, it has to be done responsibly. But there are already rules to govern how background information is reported, interpreted and acted upon. What we’re talking about here is the value of an employer knowing the reality of a person’s history – for worse AND for better.

Read the commissioners’ letter and drop us a comment to let us know what you think.

If you’d like to discuss your company’s program, request a free employment screening consultation.

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¹ Harry J Holtzer, Perceived Criminality, Background Checks and the Racial Hiring Practices of Employers, 49, J. Law & Econ. 451 (2006)

² Michael Stoll, Ex-Offenders, Criminal Background Checks, and Racial Consequences in the Labor Market, University of Chicago Legal Forum, (2009)

About Michael Gaul

A security industry professional since 1988, Michael has extensive expertise in the fields of human capital risk management, physical security, and background screening process management. Michael leads Proforma’s sales, marketing, and strategic customer relations efforts.


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