A recent case in central Florida involving a hotel worker who was an ex-offender with a long criminal past being accused of raping a guest demonstrates in graphic detail the need for criminal background checks by employers. According to a report from NBC affiliate WESH Channel 2 News in Orlando, the woman reported to police that an employee who lived and worked at the hotel where she was staying used his master key to break into her room in the middle of the night and rape her while she begged him to stop. In the story, the Florida Department of Corrections reported the accused man – who police said faces charges of sexual battery and burglary – had a long history of criminal activity “with about seven trips to state prison” and was most recently released in 2009.

Hotel management declined to tell WESH 2 News if they knew about the accused’s criminal history, whether they run background checks on employees, and why the man had a master key to all the rooms. While WESH 2 News reported that the hotel security council member said many small hotels hire many workers without doing background checks, it is still unknown whether or not the hotel ran a criminal background check on the accused man prior to his hiring.

The case in Florida of a hotel worker with a long criminal past being accused of raping a guest is an example of why criminal background checks are needed during the hiring process. The case also demonstrates why the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) – the Government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination – “needs to take a balanced approach to criminal background checks,” according to safe hiring expert Attorney Lester Rosen.

Rosen’s comment comes in response to the EEOC public meeting held on July 26, 2011 on the issue of ‘Arrest and Conviction Records as a Hiring Barrier’ that examined the use of arrest and conviction records for criminal background checks by employers to determine if the practice was an unfair and discriminatory hiring barrier to ex-offenders seeking jobs. More information about the meeting may be found on the EEOC website at: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/7-26-11/index.cfm.

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. Rosen, CEO of nationwide background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR) and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ submitted a letter for public comment to EEOC on the meeting of July 26 that stated: “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.”

In the letter, Rosen described 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.”

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 Attorney Lester 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 more 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.