Society for Human Resource Management Issues Statement on the Use of Criminal Background Checks

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management representing more than 250,000 members in 140 countries, has issued a statement on the use of criminal background checks in response to a new study by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) that recommends reforming criminal background checks used for employment screening of job applicants since roughly 65 million U.S. adults – more than one in four – have criminal records.

SHRM stated that criminal background checks an appropriate and important tool to help employers make informed hiring decisions and that national research conducted by SHRM showed a majority of employers were thoughtful in the hiring process and approach criminal background checks with fairness as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits unlawful discrimination in the hiring process.

A survey released by SHRM in January 2010 – “Background Checking: Conducting Criminal Background Checks SHRM Poll” – documented how employers used the information from criminal background checks and followed U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on avoiding discrimination. The poll found:

  • 73 percent of employers conducted criminal background checks on all job applicants while 19 percent of employers conducted criminal background checks on selected job applicants.
  • 78 percent of employers conducted criminal background checks on job applicants with fiduciary and financial responsibility, 68 percent of employers conducted criminal background checks job applicants who would have access to highly confidential employee information, and 55 percent conducted criminal background checks on job applicants for senior executive positions.
  • 61 percent of employers conducted criminal background checks on job applicants to ensure a safe work environment for employees, 55 percent of employers conducted criminal background checks on job applicants to reduce legal liability for negligent hiring, and 39 percent of employers conducted criminal background checks on job applicants to reduce or prevent theft or other criminal activity.
  • 63 percent of employers offered job applicants an opportunity to explain the circumstances when adverse information was found before the job decision to hire or not to hire was made.
  • 20 percent of employers conducted criminal background checks on job applicants because they were required to do so by law. Some federal and state laws and local ordinances require employers to conduct criminal background checks for positions including day care workers, health care providers, teachers, coaches, and police.

In addition, the SHRM survey findings were consistent with EEOC guidance that employers may lawfully make hiring decisions based upon the prior criminal offenses of job applicants if they take into account factors including the nature of the offense, the age of the offense, and the relationship of the offense to the job. The SHRM survey found:

  • 97 percent of employers considered the severity of the criminal activity when making a hiring decision.
  • 95 percent of employers considered the number of convictions when making a hiring decision.
  • 95 percent of employers considered the length of time since the criminal activity when making a hiring decision.
  • 93 percent of employers considered the relevance of the criminal activity to the position. 

The research SHRM conducted in 2006 and 2010 also did not show an increase in the use of criminal background checks by employers on job applicants, as the 2006 SHRM survey “Weapons in the Workplace” found that 96 percent of respondents conducted criminal background checks.

Founded in 1948, SHRM serves the needs and advances the interests of the HR profession. For more information, visit the SHRM website at http://www.shrm.org/ or follow SHRM on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SHRMPress. SHRM members may view the statement on the use of criminal background checks on the SHRM website by clicking here.

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco, CA area with a mission to help both employers and employees maintain safe workplaces, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen and is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). ESR is also a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent that helps U.S. businesses maintain a legal workforce. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), please visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at tahearn@ESRcheck.com.

Sources:

http://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Articles/Pages/BackgroundCheckCriminalChecks.aspx

http://www.shrm.org/Advocacy/Issues/WorkplaceSafety/Documents/SHRM%20Weapons%20in%20the%20Workplace%20Survey%2011.06.pdf

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