Judicial Watch • Feds Push States to Ban “Discriminatory” Background Checks

Feds Push States to Ban “Discriminatory” Background Checks

Feds Push States to Ban “Discriminatory” Background Checks

AUGUST 29, 2013

Pressured by the federal government, states and municipalities across the U.S. are adopting senseless measures restricting employers from asking job applicants about criminal history.

The Obama administration claims criminal background checks are discriminatory because they disproportionately exclude minorities—especially blacks—from hire. That’s why the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace discrimination laws, is spending taxpayer dollars suing companies that run criminal background checks on job applicants.

Besides litigation, the administration is working behind the scenes by offering local governments “guidance” on passing measures banning criminal background checks. The laws are known as “ban the box” because they call for removing the question and check box that asks candidates if they’ve been convicted of a crime. So far three states have passed laws prohibiting employers from asking about criminal history and dozens of municipalities nationwide—including those in Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware—have done the same, according to a nonprofit that advocates for workers’ rights.

Minnesota became the last state to pass a “ban the box” law a few months ago. The measure, which takes effect in 2014, prohibits employers from asking an applicant about his or her criminal history or performing a background check until the applicant has been selected for an interview or extended an offer of employment. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) celebrated Minnesota’s law, writing in a press relese that  as “Americans we believe in second chances.”

A legal news site notes that “of particular relevance to the Minnesota restrictions is the recent guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding criminal background checks. That guidance expresses the EEOC’s view that employers should not deny employment based on arrest records and should utilize conviction records only after evaluating the nature of the job, the severity of the conviction, the time elapsed since the conviction and the applicant’s rehabilitative efforts.”

Bottom line: The feds are coercing local governments to make it illegal for private companies to properly vet job candidates. Assisting in the national movement is a “community organization” in California called Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. The group helped coin the phrase “ban the box,” claiming that the questions translate into “lifelong discrimination and exclusion because of a past arrest or conviction record.”

Just a few weeks ago a federal judge hearing one of the Obama administration’s many background-check discrimination cases in Maryland blasted the claims, calling them “laughable,” “distorted,” “cherry-picked,” “worthless” and “an egregious example of scientific dishonesty.” The lashing was delivered in a 34-page opinion lambasting the government’s expert data against a family-owned company that started using background checks after being a victim of embezzlement, theft, drug use and workplace violence.

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  • don

    It definitely represents cruel and unusual punishment and should be held unconstitutional on that basis at least.

  • Lasivian

    “The feds are coercing local governments to make it illegal for private companies to properly vet job candidates”

    Well, that depends what you consider “properly vet”. In times long gone this included using such things such as sex, weight, race, religion, etc. to decide if a candidate was “acceptable” for the position.

    But, in the USA we do not really believe that any criminal has “paid their debt to society” in full do we? Perhaps we should just start cutting off fingers or branding people on the forehead when they commit a crime so we will always be able to spot the criminals? Something tells me the blogger that wrote this would be all for those measures.

  • Nicole

    So if someone was denied employment in Texas because of a pending charge for
    “Possession of Marijuana less than 2 gm.” found out via a criminal background check, was that illegal?

  • dale gross

    A criminal record portends, in and of itself, nothing regarding the future; thus, they are discriminatory. Just because they don’t necessarily discriminate against a legally defined class at the present time, doesn’t change the principle. All of the craziest mass shootings in recent history were perpetrated by persons with no criminal history. How come businesses (besides those in the housing rental business) don’t background check their customers? Because they are greedy and don’t want to lose business. Background checking is a bandwagon phenomenon perpetuated by the selfish interests of the media, lawmakers, and law enforcement types. It also is elitism at its finest, as it seeks and does create a menial labor class of workers. It’s double jeopardy in spirit, and its supporters use specious reasoning and abuse statistics to justify its increasing and continued use.

  • Troy Riddle

    I live in Texas, and as recently as 3 months ago I filed out an application and sure as day there was the box! I am trying to get into the Legislative session in 2015 to present information as to why this is unconstitutional, does not support a safer society/community, and is also discrimination that knows no color, race, or religion. This is America, and those of us who have made a mistake in life, and went before a judge in a court of law, finished our sentences and paid our debt to society, so this could even be classified as “double jeopardy” and that is also against our bill of rights. If a state wants to keep the box, then they should classify an ex-offender as a minority class, and stop taxing us! Either they protect us like out tax dollar is paying them to do, or stop taking our money.

  • sfmiquel415

    First of all this article is not exactly true! I live in Ohio and have been barred from being employed by most businesses because of those same discriminatory laws that this says are not in Ohio. I have received letter after letter from places such as Mcdonald’s, Dollar General, and a few other businesses that use G.I.S. reporting agency to run their checks. All of which return records from over 15 years ago in their reports and have prevented me from gaining employment. Ohio is one of the worst states in the country to get a job!! So please change your articles information to reflect the true states that ban these checks. Are you people listening? I can’t even get a job at Mcdonalds!!! For a crime that is over 15 years old. I live in Akron and this is the most ridiculous place I’ve ever been. It wasn’t like this in California!?!?! Stop lying to people just so that your site can get more viewers. Give true information or I’ll be forced to report this to blog sites that will be sure to inform all viewers of your inaccuracies.

  • lsl8303

    Lets take the Ban the Box 1 step further the reason why….if you are not found Not Guilty of a crime than you shouldn’t have a record…please ban the box….take it one step further… your childs school requires a background check for you to visit the school…and you have a Domestic case from an abusive relationship that was dismissed by the city atty due to spousal abuse ..no big deal because it was dismissed..right? After all it was your x husband who attacked you and you defended yourself that’s why it was dismissed so no it can’t possibly effect you right? NOT right….a random school administrators now has your very private information details and all showing that you had a domestic charge and simply states was dismissed with no reason it was dismisses….how embarrassing… and yes they can use it to discriminate you! And yes they can whisper behind your back to your employer! And yes it can cause you the loss of friends but they wont say it aloud and suddenly your a criminal….and your childs girl scout troup suddenly no longer needs your help and your childs teacher no longer calls to say Hi…and when you pick your your child up in car pool line you see them stare at you

  • todo

    I agree that if it isn’t something the employer needs to know because of the job, such as employee is entering people’s homes, for th clients safety or working around children in schools, other wise the person paid their time and shouldn’t be punished for ever. Keeping them from getting a job is only going to make a criminal out of them. If they are going to do it for employement then why not for housing also. People that have comitted crimes need a place to live. If a person made a mistake and even made it many years ago, why should they never be able to get a job or a place to live, They did the crime and did the time and paid for it.

  • rhondadd

    So how is this going to help when after the interview that person is still excluded from employment. 95% of employers refuse to hire employees with any record regardless of how old it is. Unless you ban an employer from asking about a criminal history the DISCRINMINATION WILL CONTINUE. IT LOOKS MORE LIKE THE GOVERNMENT MISLEADING PEOPLE WITH RECORDS INTO THINKING THEY HAVE A CHANCE. WRONG. JUST SETTING THEM UP FOR FAILURE AND INSULTS. STOP ANY QUESTIONS OF CRIMINAL PAST. CREATE A FEDERAL REGISTRY Of sexual offenders that an employer has access to and they should only be excluded for positions where children gather…schools daycares ect. They even deserve their life back after time served.

  • jamesdavis1

    Backgound checks help protect clients from unnecessary legal accountability. Thanks for sharing background checks

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