An April 2012 ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may bring hope to those with criminal histories. The EEOC has changed the rules regarding how and when criminal background checks can be used in employment screenings in the workplace. The new guidelines asks employers to consider the nature of the crime, the time that has passed since the conviction and whether or not the crime committed has any bearing on the employment position. The guidelines were created due to mounting evidence that suggests that criminal background checks can be used to discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities.

In October the EEOC alleged that Dollar General Corporation’s use of criminal background checks violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as it had a disparate impact on African American applicants. Legal experts suggest that employers can be held responsible even if they did not intentionally discriminate against a person or group. Employment Screening Resources reported that a major beverage company paid over $3 million and changed their policies and training procedures to resolve the EEOC charge that they discriminated against African Americans through the use of criminal background checks.

The ruling seems to have had an effect with a rise in complaints about criminal history discrimination as well as a decrease in businesses conducting mandatory criminal background checks on all potential employees. In order to protect your business we suggest that as an employer you keep a record of all criminal background checks performed and your justification for both reviewing the applicant’s criminal background as well as acting upon that information. As an employer you do have the right to screen employees in order to keep the workplace safe, fight theft and protect the safety and security of your customers.