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EEOC's attempts to limit background screening fall flat

Oct 07, 2013 Quinn Thomas

EEOC's attempts to limit background screening fall flat

In recent months, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been making aggressive attempts to limit the use of pre-employment screening processes. The organization has argued that many background checks are discriminatory in nature because they prevent minorities from gaining employment.

Screening industry leaders have challenged that sentiment and various legal proceedings have resulted from the debate. According to law firm Fisher & Phillips, recent court rulings show that the EEOC claim may not hold much water.

The source reported that a federal district court in Maryland ruled that the EEOC's reasons for challenging the screening process were lacking factual support. In fact, the court went a step further, noting why pre-employment criminal history checks are indeed legitimate.

"Employers have a clear incentive to avoid hiring employees who have a proven tendency to defraud or steal from their employers, engage in workplace violence or who otherwise appear to be untrustworthy and unreliable," the court statement asserted, according to Fisher & Phillips.

Court officials noted that the defendant in the recent case, Freeman Companies, conducted screening procedures that were in compliance with applicable laws. Moreover, Freeman spearheaded the checks in a responsible manner that only took criminal records from the last seven years into account when considering job applicants. Also, the company was found to ignore arrests that did not result in prior convictions or guilty pleas, evidence that the company pays close attention to the background screening routines.

Employers say screening has benefits

Pre-employment criminal screening has a number of advantages for businesses. Conducting such comprehensive research can help companies ensure that they are hiring the best candidates possible. According to The Houston Chronicle, analyzing criminal records can help HR managers note events regarding motor vehicle operations, civil lawsuits, sexual offenses and any federal convictions.

The source stated that the Small Business Administration recommends that any business looking to complete a background search should consult with an attorney prior to launching a screening procedure. Also, the SBA stressed that it is illegal to collect information relating to arrests or criminal activity that is more than seven years old.

Because laws vary by state, it can be difficult for companies to comply with all screening regulations. Therefore, it's a good idea for executives to outsource their operations to a professional background screening service. These organizations understand all applicable state and federal laws regulating the practice, which can help clients avoid litigation associated with unlawful screening procedures.