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“Ban the Box” Laws Allows Ex-Offenders to Get Jobs

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on November 5th, 2013

“Ban the Box” Laws Will Remove “Convicted of Felony” Question From Job Applications

A growing number of states now prohibit public agencies – and in some cases private employers – from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history until they reach the interview stage or get a conditional job offer.

Essentially that means removing the check-box questions commonly found on applications that ask, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”

Obstacles such as these that make it more difficult for ex-offenders to obtain jobs, housing and even basic documents like drivers’ licenses only serve to drive them back to jail.

These “ban the box” laws are intended to allow ex-offenders to prove they are qualified for the job before criminal history issues enter into the hiring decision.

Minneapolis-based Target Corporation, one of the nation’s largest employer, has announced it will remove questions about criminal history from its job applications throughout the country.

California’s “Ban The Box” Laws Take Effect on July 1, 2014

This comes on the heels of a similar development in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown signed a “ban-the-box bill” that applies to government employers. Once the law takes effect on July 1, 2014, employers will have to determine a job applicant’s minimum qualifications before they ask about a job candidate’s criminal past. Applications and initial interviews for jobs, such as police officers, that by law require a conviction background check, are exempt.

Last year the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission expanded and updated a 25-year-old ruling barring employers from automatically denying people jobs because of arrest or conviction records.

In the guidance the E.E.O.C. gave it was made clear that an arrest alone is not proof of illegal conduct or grounds for exclusion from employment. It also outlined that employers need to take into account the seriousness of the offense, as well as the time that has lapsed since the crime was committed and the relevance of the crime to the specific job sought.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

The use of credit checks and convictions in employment applications

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law on August 27th, 2013

Court OKs credit history and past convictions as employment criteria

The U.S. District Court for Maryland made it even harder for workers with poor credit histories and past criminal convictions to secure employment when it dismissed a federal lawsuit brought by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Freeman, a privately held event management company.

The lawsuit charges Freeman with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. According to the EEOC, the employer’s hiring practice of performing detailed inquiries into applicant’s credit histories and criminal backgrounds amounted to discrimination because it disproportionately impacted African-American and male job applicants.

Any applicant meeting any of 12 different categories of reported credit-unworthiness were excluded from certain positions.
The Freeman court joined a number of other employers praising what some consider a “common sense” practice of performing credit and criminal background checks. Supporters of this practice ignore studies demonstrating that credit problems do not predict employee performance, as well as studies documenting atrocious error rates on credit checks. A report released by the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year found that a quarter of consumers identified errors (that might impact credit scores) on their credit report.

In 2011, California limited the use of credit checks in employment. The law also established broad exceptions to the “prohibition” on employment-related credit checks, essentially blessing the use of credit checks across jobs and industries where the necessity had previously never been demonstrated.

Employment Application: Have you ever pleaded guilty to, or been convicted of, a criminal offense?

 

Freeman’s standard employment application form also asked, “Have you ever pleaded guilty to, or been convicted of, a criminal offense?” Applicants were told certain convictions would not be considered in the hiring process. However, the company acknowledged a “bright-line rule” that disqualified any applicant who “failed to disclose a conviction, seriously misrepresented the circumstances of a criminal offense, or made any other materially dishonest statement on the application.”

These types of cases, often called “disparate impact” cases, stand or fall on the persuasiveness of the presented statistical evidence. In the EEOC v. Freeman case, the court let loose on the EEOC’s expert, criticizing his methodology and ultimately calling his findings “an egregious example of scientific dishonesty.”

These cases are being watched closely by consumer and civil rights advocates, who hope the EEOC’s oversight of these employment policies will reduce the use of background checks to screen out applicants. The decision nonetheless reinforces misconceptions and legal standards that are hostile to anyone applying to join the workforce.

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