Background checks: A trend you’ll want to watch

Looks like there’s a new issue to add to the list of HR headaches you’re keeping an eye on: background checks — both criminal and credit.
Two states have recently passed laws restricting how employers can use the information they dig up on job applicants’ backgrounds. Other states are considering similar legislation.Finally, the EEOC’s brought legal action against employers — including the U.S. Census Bureau — which, the agency alleges, misused background check information when making hiring decisions. Massachusetts, Illinois enact new laws Earlier this month, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the second state (Hawaii was first) to to ban both public and private employers from requesting criminal record information on initial job applications. The legislation does permit employers to inquire about an individual’s criminal history on a job application if  federal or state law bars a person from a certain job because of a specific prior offense. This week, Illinois passed the Employee Credit Privacy Act, which prohibits employers from inquiring about or refusing to hire, discharge or otherwise discriminate against workers on the basis of their credit reports. In 2009, Minnesota enacted a law barring public employers from asking a job applicant about criminal records or conducting a criminal record check until after an applicant has been selected for an interview. New Mexico and Connecticut followed suit in 2010. Currently, three other states are considering similar bills: Nebraska, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Feds are busy, too The EEOC recently filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Census Bureau, claiming the Bureau illegally screened out applicants with old arrests  for minor or unconvicted offenses that likely wouldn’t have disqualified the candidates for other jobs — including many positions in the federal government. And last fall, the EEOC filed suit against Dallas-based Freeman Companies, alleging that the firm used credit history and criminal records to discriminate against blacks, Hispanics and males.
August 12, 2010 by Tim Gould

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