Reentry organizations throughout the country applauded the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for revising its guidelines in an effort to educate employers about the laws regarding the hiring of qualified people with criminal records.
The EEOC amended ”Enforcement Guidance on employer use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien stated “The new guidance clarifies and updates the EEOC’s longstanding policy concerning the use of arrest and conviction records in employment, which will assist job seekers, employees, employers, and many other agency stakeholders.
The Legal Action Center announced the revised guidelines would:
Put employers on notice that categorical exclusions for people with certain convictions may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Law of 1964 because of the disparate impact on minorities.
Recommend that job applications not ask about criminal records, and that if they do ask, they limit inquiries to records for which exclusion would be job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.
Offer examples of common policies and practices that violate Title VII.
Inform local and state governments that laws barring people with certain criminal records from jobs or licenses also could violate Title VII.
The EEOC stated that “While Title VII does not prohibit an employer from requiring applicants or employees to provide information about arrests, convictions or incarceration, it is unlawful to discriminate in employment based on race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.” Because of the racial disparity in America’s prisons, people of color have traditionally been denied jobs after their release, based on their criminal history, far more than whites with convictions. The new guidelines address this issue with the intention of advancing job opportunities for people of color in particular, and those with a criminal record in general.
The EEOC guide discusses:
How an employer’s use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions could violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII
Federal court decisions analyzing Title VII as applied to criminal record exclusions
The differences between the treatment of arrest records and conviction records
The applicability of disparate treatment and disparate impact analysis under Title VII
Compliance with other federal laws and/or regulations that restrict and/or prohibit the employment of individuals with certain criminal records
Best practices for employers
Speaking on the new guidelines, Roberta Meyers, director of the National HIRE Network proclaimed, "As someone who has been fighting against this type of discrimination for decades, all I can say is, “wow.” This is an incredibly strong stance that really raises the bar for employers and opens doors to qualified applicants who have repeatedly been turned away."