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Law firm: Employers should be aware of background screening legal landscape

Aug 28, 2013 Quinn Thomas

Pre-employment background screening has long been an effective tool for employers looking to ensure that they are hiring the best job candidates available. However, government agencies have recently made a dedicated effort to step up enforcement efforts for illegal screening practices.

Law firm BakerHostetler recently reported that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is currently pursuing high-profile lawsuits against BMW and Dollar General for suspect hiring procedures centered on what it alleges are illegal background checks.

In fact, the source noted that the EEOC has made it clear through their actions and statements in recent months that legal concerns surrounding background screening will be one of the organization's top priorities for the rest of 2013.

Although some cases filed by the EEOC have been dismissed, many more remain active which could potentially set the stage for future action to be taken by to regulatory body if a precedent is set in its favor.

BakerHostetler recommended that the increased scrutiny from the EEOC, as well as a number of state governments, should force employers to review their screening procedures. At the center of the screening issue is a focus on what the EEOC perceives as being discriminatory practices, including the exclusion of all applicants with particular convictions. Therefore, it would be wise for businesses to ensure that they tread the line carefully when making such employment decisions.

Instead of conducting employment screens on their own, executives and human resources professionals should use the services of a third-party background check provider. Such organizations have a number of experienced professionals on staff that understand current laws and policies that are being scrutinized by groups including the EEOC.

A recent article in the Daily Herald highlighted the case of one individual who had a felony charge included on his criminal history report, despite the lack of a conviction. For the average business, this could be a red flag. However, a reputable, professional screening will understand that such information is hardly grounds for denying employment. That knowledge could help clients avoid litigation in the future.