The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission voted Wednesday to revise its long-standing guidance to employers on how to properly evaluate job applicants’ criminal histories in pre-employment screening, reports McClatchy News Service. To pass muster, job denials based on criminal convictions must be shown to be “job-related and consistent with business necessity,” according to EEOC guidelines. This means the employer must show that it considered three factors: the nature and gravity of the offense, the amount of time since the conviction and the relevance of the offense to the type of the job that’s being sought.
The issue became a controversy because an estimated 65 million Americans have some type of criminal record, which can make it very difficult to get a job. Researchers found in 2009 that a criminal record cut chances for a job callback or offer by nearly 50 percent. Yet employers say record checks are essential in judging job seekers’ judgment, trustworthiness and reliability. The revamped guidelines clarify standards established in 1987. They also make recommendations on how employers can avoid EEOC scrutiny when they’re considering job seekers with previous arrests and convictions. Denying jobs solely on the basis of criminal convictions is illegal, because it would disproportionately affect blacks and Latinos, who have higher rates of arrest and criminal conviction.