Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

EEOC Cracking Down on Not Hiring Convicted Criminals

As a business owner, it probably goes without saying that you know you can't base employment decisions on characteristics like someone's race, sex, or national origin.

But did you know there are other factors that could potentially lead to an employment discrimination lawsuit as well like not hiring convicted criminals? That's right, not hiring a convicted criminal could get you sued.

In fact, earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it would begin cracking down on employers who considered applicant's criminal backgrounds in their hiring decisions. But if having a criminal conviction is not a protected characteristic, then why the fuss?

The unfortunate fact is that a Hispanic man is three times as likely to be convicted of a crime as compared to a white man, and a black man is six times more likely, reports The New York Times. To the EEOC, this means that there is unequal enforcement of the laws against minorities.

So by basing employment decisions upon whether or not someone has a criminal record, you as the employer may be unwittingly engaging in discriminatory acts by not hiring convicted criminals.

However, if you have a legitimate business reason for not hiring a specific type of criminal convict, then not hiring that person may be okay. For example, if you run a children's daycare center, you probably can discriminate against convicted sex offenders in your hiring. Similarly, you probably can rule out convicted bank robbers from bank teller positions.

The takeaway from the EEOC is that employers should not have blanket policies that state they will not hire convicted criminals. Instead, each employer should base their hiring policies around their specific business needs and not rule out those who have been convicted of crimes completely unrelated to their business.

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