Article | November 20, 2013

Criminal Background Checks

By Bob Goldberg, RSPA General Counsel

Conducting criminal background checks of potential employees that will be in your accounting area or technicians that will be sent into businesses is a good employment practice. In fact several suppliers have required criminal background checks in conjunction with their authorization as a service provider. Background checks have traditionally been considered appropriate, however that is changing.

Based on recent pronouncements by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), businesses that conduct criminal background checks do so at their own risk. Companies that either ask job applicants if they have been convicted of a felony or check criminal histories expose themselves to potential discrimination lawsuits. Under the EEOC’s recent Enforcement Guidance, while conducting criminal background checks is not by itself unlawful, the use of criminal histories can be discriminatory. The impact on minorities can result in liability if the company cannot show a “business necessity” for rejecting an applicant based upon the applicant’s criminal past.

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