The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has scheduled a July 26, 2011 meeting to evaluate arrest and conviction records as a barrier to employment. The meeting will be open to the public but will not be broadcast on television or the internet.
The National Association of Professional Background Screeners has issued an action alert calling on businesses and organizations to join with them to share their view that “background checks enable employers to make more informed hiring decisions and the need for any forthcoming EEOC action to not hamper employers’ ability to conduct background checks to protect persons and property in the workplace.”
The EEOC has previously determined that employers may not bar everyone with an arrest or conviction from employment. In addressing a Department of Labor Roundtable on June 21, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder said that it is a priority of the administration to ensure that the millions of Americans who have served their time “are able to become productive members of society, to contribute their skills and training to our workforce, to provide for themselves and their families.
More than 2 million Americans are incarcerated and 95 percent will eventually be released. “We know that having a job remains central to successfully reentry,” Holder said, “Yet, very often, those who’ve paid their debts to society – including many who’ve worked to learn a trade or to earn a degree, and are hoping to get back on their feet – find themselves at the back of the line for employment.”
“The use of criminal records is a difficult issue because it involves important American values that can seem to conflict,” says Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources. “On one hand, we value public safety and a safe workspace with honest and qualified employees. On the other hand, as a society we believe in second chances, and that a person’s past should not hold them back forever, particularly for more minor offenses. The issue is how to draw lines that both protect innocent people and, at the same time, does not burden the taxpayers by creating a permanent class of unemployed people. Unless an ex-offender can get a job, they cannot become a taxpaying and law abiding citizen and the taxpayers end up building more prisons then they do schools or hospitals, so it is a matter of finding a good balance.”
EEOC Policy Guidance and Statements on Arrest and Conviction Records