Attorney and safe hiring expert Lester Rosen, CEO of nationwide background check company Employment Screening Resources (ESR), has submitted a letter for public comment to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the Government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination – after the Commission recently held a public meeting on July 26, 2011 that examined the use by employers of arrest and conviction records for criminal background checks to determine if the practice was an unfair and discriminatory hiring barrier to jobseeking ex-offenders. The Commission had held open the July 26 meeting record for 15 days and invited members of the public to submit written comments on any issue or matters discussed at the meeting. The letter in its entirety is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/EEOC-and-the-Use-of-Criminal-Records-for-Employment.php.
Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ a guide to employment background checks and the first co-chair of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), wrote the public comment in connection with the Meeting on July 26, 2011 held by the EEOC on the issue of ‘Arrest and Conviction Records as a Hiring Barrier.’ “In reviewing of some of the comments and testimony from the hearing on July 26, it appears there are some important considerations that the EEOC should consider that may not have been sufficiently addressed at the meeting,” Rosen wrote. More information about the July 26th meeting may be found on the EEOC website at: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/7-26-11/index.cfm.
Rosen went on to describe how the rights of ex-offenders to a second chance must be balanced with the rights of employees to have a safe workplace: “Of course, the pre-employment screening industry recognizes that unless ex-offenders receive a second chance, we stand the risk as a society of creating a class of permanently unemployed and employable individuals. The results are not only devastating to the ex-offenders and their families, but it also places a substantial strain on societal resources. However, it is just as important to understand that innocent people have the right to be safe in their workplaces and everyday lives.”
Rosen also wrote that the use of criminal records is a difficult issue because it involves important American values that can seem to conflict. “On one hand, we value public safety and a safe workspace with honest and qualified employees. All Americans have a right to be safe and secure in their workplace. On the other hand, as a society we believe in second chances, and that a person’s past should not hold him or her 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.”
In seeking to balance these competing interests, Rosen hopes that the EEOC will recognize that there are some “real world” issues that need to be considered that include:
- Employers face significant risk if a person that is dangerous, unfit, unqualified or dishonest is hired.
- A professional background screening firm – also known as a Consumer Reporting Agency or CRA – operating under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is an entirely different industry than the cheap and instant online database searches that can result in inaccurate data. A CRA preforms screenings under the strict standards of the FCRA based upon the applicant’s written consent, as opposed to data aggregators that sell data to anyone with a credit card.
- Background screening firms are NOT the employment police, but professionals that gather relevant information so employers can make intelligent decisions. Background check reports provided by a Consumer Reporting Agency protects both employers and job applicants by providing employers with reports with much greater accuracy that filter out information that cannot be used, and providing job applicants with an immediate avenue to contest any information in the report.
- The background screening industry as a whole has been the primary reason why employers have become aware of the EEOC position on the overly board or automatic use of criminal records, since background screening firms deal with a high percentage of U.S. employers and typically include client education on how to properly consider the use of criminal records.
- The issue of inaccurate records comes primarily from the data aggregator firms. A simple solution is to require any employer to only utilize information that has been confirmed as accurate and up to date from a primary source, such as a courthouse search.
- Over 140 background screening firms have joined an industry group called “ConcernedCRAs” (http://www.concernedcras.com/) that opposes the use of databases provided by data aggregators for employment purposes, without first reconfirming that the information is currently complete, accurate and up-to-date.
Following a far more detailed discussion of the “real world” issues mentioned above, Rosen summarized that the EEOC should undertake a fair and well-reasoned evaluation of all the issues and how its rulemaking in this area would impact all stakeholders: “It is certainly critically important to our society that everyone have a second chance. However, citizens also have a right to be free of violence and fraud in their everyday dealing, either as a member of the public, an employee or employer. In reaching these difficult decisions, it is critical that the EEOC have a full understanding of all of the facts that surround background checks and criminal records.”
The letter from Les Rosen to the EEOC is available at the ‘Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Use of Criminal Records for Employment’ page at http://www.esrcheck.com/EEOC-and-the-Use-of-Criminal-Records-for-Employment.php. For information about background checks, visit the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) website at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR streamlines the screening process and reduces administrative overhead though its proprietary technology solutions. ESR is one of a select few firms accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). This important recognition was achieved by successfully passing a third party audit demonstrating compliance with the NAPBS Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about ESR, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.