EEOC Rule Change For Background Checks

Seal of the United States Equal Employment Opp...
Seal of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can a youthful mistake—like a run-in with the law that occurred decades ago—keep a person from getting a job?

It may not be the case, based on new guidelines for employers determined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC recently updated the official position on criminal background checks. The new policy was approved this week, and a whitepaper is available that explains the new procedures. Employers can obtain the information by emailing a request to

This change is part of an attempt to limit business practices effecting minorities, people with traditionally higher arrest and conviction averages than whites.

For years, the EEOC position was for employers not to reject any applicants with criminal records automatically.  The guidelines for employers were to evaluate if a criminal record could be related to the job and that there was a “business necessity” to deny employment.

Three factors must be analyzed before a decision can be made:

  • The nature of the crime
  • Time elapsed since the crime or conviction.
  • The nature of the job.

This three-part measure is referred to as the “Green” test, based upon the court case Green v. Missouri Pacific (8th Cir. 1975).

The updated EEOC employer guidelines strengthen the three-part standard and add more detailed explanations.

Some businesses are afraid that the new rules will make it more demanding and cost-prohibitive to conduct background checks. Companies see criminal background checks as the best method to keep workplaces safe, by choosing the best employees and avoiding claims of negligent hiring.

The new standard advises employers grant applicants the opportunity to explain past criminal misconduct, as opposed to rejecting applications directly. There is always a chance that a criminal record is incorrect, or a conviction was expunged.

The changes highlight increased EEOC enforcement of job discrimination claims.

Pepsi Beverages Co. recently paid $3.1 million to settle EEOC charges of race discrimination; they were accused of using criminal background checks as a reason to reject large numbers of job applicants, many of them never convicted.

For more information about the new EEOC rules about background checks, read U.S. Puts Limits On Employee Background Checks To Protect Minorities at Jobs. For additional resources about the Criminal Record EEOC Whitepaper, go to

Published by @philammann

Put. That coffee. Down. Writer/editor/whatever it takes. @margaretj13 is my (much) better half. Website: Email: Twitter: @PhilAmmann

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