United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) Seeking Comments on Criminal Background Checks
Date:  01-05-2013

Public is invited to offer comments for consideration in creating new USCCR report on barriers to employment for those with a criminal history
The Sentencing Project announced that the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) is seeking comments from the public on criminal background checks, and whether the checks thwart employment opportunities for those with a criminal background, including an arrest, but not a conviction.

Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project sent out the following announcement:

As you may know, the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) held a briefing on December 7 in Washington regarding the impact of criminal background checks on employment, and its particular effects for black and Latino workers. Specifically, USCCR sought to determine "whether the new EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] Guidance policy or other prohibitions or limitations on the use of criminal background checks results in lower job opportunities and reduced employment overall among minorities, including nonoffenders."

EEOC has long provided guidance to job seekers, employees, employers, and others regarding the use of arrest and conviction records in employment. The revised guidance calls for employers to assess applicants on an individual basis rather than excluding with a blanket policy all of those with a criminal record. It directs employers to weigh the nature of the job, the seriousness of the offense, and the length of time since the offense occurred in hiring. Moreover the revised guidance notes that job seekers should not be rejected on the basis of an arrest alone, since arrest is not proof of criminal behavior.

Appearing at the December 7 briefing were a number of experts, including government officials, academics, advocates, and business leaders. USCCR is now accepting public comments, which it will consider in developing a report and recommendations on the need to address employment barriers based on criminal history. It is thus essential that criminal justice, civil rights, and workers advocates submit comments for the Commission’s consideration. Comments can be any length, but interested parties are advised to be concise. In relating your concerns, you may want to consider the following:

  • Nearly one in three American adults is arrested by age 23.

  • Many of those who have been arrested (and thus have a “criminal record” that could appear on a criminal background check) have never been convicted of a crime.

  • Black workers are disproportionately impacted by criminal background checks, reflecting disparities in the criminal justice system and racial bias among employers. Research has documented that African Americans with no felony convictions are no more likely to receive a callback or job offer as whites with a felony record.

  • Employment is essential for people who have broken the law and are trying to reenter society. Barring such people from getting a job increases the odds that they will commit another crime.

  • The bottom line is that people should have the opportunity for employment in jobs for which they are qualified and for which their criminal record is irrelevant. The overly broad use of criminal background checks by employers has a disproportionate impact on people of color.

    If you are interested in submitting comments, the deadline is January 21. Comments should be emailed to: lostrowsky@usccr.gov or publiccomments@usccr.gov.

    Source: The Sentencing Project, 1705 DeSales Street, NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20036, 202.628.0871