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South Carolina district court makes ruling in EEOC background screening case

Sep 20, 2013 Quinn Thomas

Background screening procedures have long been useful tools for businesses looking to make sure they are hiring the best candidates possible. However, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEOC) has recently been ramping up its efforts to regulate the practice, arguing that many screening procedures discriminate against minority job applicants.

However, a ruling by a South Carolina district court has brought into question the legitimate nature of the EEOC's claims. Law firm Fisher & Phillips recently noted that the court threw out a lawsuit filed by the EEOC against Freeman Companies, during which the EEOC alleged the enterprise used discriminatory screening practices that prevented minorities from getting jobs.

According to the source, the accusation centered on the belief that criminal screening procedures are unfair because minorities have a higher incarceration rate in the U.S. However, the court decided that statistical analytics are sophisticated enough that such practices are highly unlikely to be detrimental to a minority's ability to gain employment.

Another interesting note that the court highlighted in its final decision was that even the EEOC uses background screening when assessing applicants for vacancies within the organization. It appears to be a victory for many businesses and reputable screening firms that have responsibly used the checking process to ensure they are hiring the best candidates possible.

Background screen best practices
In some states, background screenings are necessary because businesses can run into liability issues if they hire a candidate with an extensive criminal history. However, Fisher & Phillips stated that relief may be coming in these same states, as Texas recently passed a bill protecting employers that hire candidates with a criminal record.

This is a positive development for previous offenders who should be given a second chance and the businesses that decide to afford them the opportunity to become an asset to society. Even so, it's important for enterprises to make sure they are adhering to all laws and guidelines outlined by state and federal entities, including the EEOC. Although businesses may be able to challenge lawsuits in court, even a successful legal battle can be costly.

The Small Business Association noted that due to the sensitive nature of the practice, businesses should consult a lawyer before conducting criminal screens. Also, outsourcing the task to a third-party firm that understands state and federal laws can mitigate that chances of running into any legal issues.