Recent changes of the rules around employment background checks mean that employers will face further restrictions on when and how they can use background checks to make employment decisions. Understanding these regulations will be important for both job-seekers and employers as they work to comply with the new rules. As people search engine Spokeo recently learned when the government imposed an $800,000 fine on the company for failing to ensure users were aware of the legal restrictions on background checks, even background check providers have to be very careful about what information they share and how they share it.
The new regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) presume that in most cases, considering criminal history found through a background check is illegal when making a job decision. There are a few important exceptions however. Job-seekers applying for jobs working with kids, handling large quantities of money, or reading sensitive information can be held to higher standards when it comes to considering their legal records. In general, this decision encourages employers to only use background data when a position truly warrants extra security, making it easier for those with criminal histories to find jobs and support themselves after their legal troubles are over.
The new rules also make it clear that employers should not consider arrest records as evidence of wrongdoing. If an applicant was arrested but not convicted, the employer cannot legally use that information to deny the applicant a position. This new measure is intended to safeguard innocent people from long-lasting negative consequences of arrests for offenses they did not commit. Employers are also encouraged to take into account how long ago a conviction occurred and any evidence that the applicant has worked since conviction to demonstrate responsibility.
Proponents of the changes hope that these new, more restrictive regulations on background checks will improve equality in the workplace for groups who have been discriminated against in the past, citing much higher arrest rates for minorities, particularly in urban areas. Some supporters have also praised the EEOC for helping former criminals get the tools to truly re-join society by finding above-board jobs, while critics worry that disallowing consideration of criminal history may allow ex-cons into sensitive jobs.
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