Use Caution When Hiring

Recently, I found the below article on a newspaper’s wire service. It is quoted verbatim, “Pepsi Beverages Co. will pay $3.1 million to settle federal charges of race discrimination for using criminal background checks to screen out job applicants – even if they weren’t convicted of a crime.

The settlement announced on [1-11-2012] with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is part of a national government crackdown on hiring policies that can hurt blacks and Hispanics.

EEOC officials said the company’s policy of not hiring workers with arrest records disproportionately excluded more than 300 black applicants. The policy barred applicants who had been arrested but not convicted of a crime, and denied employment to others who were convicted of minor offenses. Using arrest and conviction records to deny employment can be illegal if it’s irrelevant for the job, according to the EEOC, which enforces the nation’s employment discrimination laws.”

Hayes  International has cautioned recruiters in the past to use special care when hiring personnel to ensure that those applicants with criminal convictions that were not job-related  are not rejected from employment unfairly. For example, a person with a DWI conviction applying for a position as a stock-person should not be rejected if the decision not to hire is based solely on that single conviction,  just as we would expect an applicant with an embezzlement conviction who applied for a financial bookkeeper’s job be turned-down for employment.

As for making a decision not to hire based solely on using an applicant’s “arrest record” (without conviction) is extremely high risk and possibly unlawful to say the least. Caution must also be used when the criminal matter is still “pending” in a court-of-law.       Our best advice is to always discuss these hiring issues in advance with your Human Resource’s attorney.   $


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