Criminal history records are used for many purposes, whether for business, employment, travel or housing. Keeping those records accurate requires coordination between several agencies and institutions.
Employers should ensure their criminal background checks are thorough, fair and compliant. The following tips can help them do so.
The accuracy of criminal records searches is essential to hiring the right people. Thorough checks can reduce your risk of hiring someone with a dangerous past, helping you protect the safety of employees and customers. They can also help you ensure compliance with the FCRA, EEOC and other laws prohibiting discrimination and keeping your business out of legal trouble. The best background check services search various sources to provide a complete view of your candidate’s criminal history. A national database search offers a broad overview, while county-level and sex offender registry searches are good ways to get more specific information. Your policy and state law may require you to consider different factors, such as the crime’s nature and duration. Understanding how your state and local laws and regulatory bodies impact the criminal record checks you conduct is critical. These rules can help you make the most informed and ethical decisions to support your organization’s growth. It is also vital to remember that individuals with a criminal history can be valuable and productive members of your team, and their past arrests or convictions should not automatically disqualify them from employment. For instance, if an individual has been charged with a minor offense and completed a diversion program, they should be considered for positions where their knowledge and skills can benefit your organization.
Besides the obvious money losses associated with a bad hire, your company could face legal trouble if an employee with a criminal record harms clients or employees. Criminal records searches are a crucial tool for hiring a person who will not pose a risk to your workforce or clients. In addition, a criminal background check can ensure that your company will comply with local, state and federal laws. For example, if a person with a criminal record is hired to work with children or vulnerable adults, your company must follow strict regulations set by the government. A criminal background check also helps companies avoid lawsuits if they do not follow anti-discriminatory hiring practices. For instance, it is illegal to disqualify a candidate for a job because of a crime they committed years ago unless the offense was a serious sexual offense or if the conviction has been expunged.
Private companies that provide criminal history record checks can help your business save time and resources by searching for you. However, these companies can sometimes make errors in interpreting and matching information. For example, information about a felony conviction may not be properly placed in context in the record, or a name might be misspelled. This can result in a discrimination suit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). SEARCH has partnered with state repositories to develop useful quality assurance self-inspection tools for these entities.
In addition to the need for improved accuracy, criminal history records should be made available as efficiently as possible. New technology has reduced background check costs significantly and is making them more accessible to employers. Advances should match these improvements in the efficiency of State central repositories and the FBI’s records systems. Current background check processes could be more effective because the information is disproportionately interpreted. For example, a person’s arrest record may cause them to be denied employment simply because it indicates an outstanding warrant or they were charged with a crime that does not necessarily relate to the position for which they are applying. In addition, criminal records are often inaccurate and may include names that are mismatched or have been misidentified. These errors can result in unintentional discrimination.
Millions are locked out of gainful employment due to their criminal histories. Their lack of jobs results in low tax revenue for States and lower spending power among individuals and families. Hiring practices based on CORI perpetuate poverty by depriving people of their basic rights. Fair chance hiring provides many individuals opportunities to generate income and become self-sufficient, breaking the vicious cycle that traps them in a prison of poverty and social stigma. It also reduces employee turnover and the related costs for your business.
Many justice-impacted individuals face obstacles in finding work. This is especially true for people of color arrested and incarcerated more than other groups (ACLU Smart Justice Report). The criminal background check process can lead to biases that result in disparate treatment, which is illegal. Business leaders must be mindful of their hiring and screening practices to combat this. This includes avoiding questions or statements derogatory to protected class members. Additionally, businesses should ensure that their hiring and screening processes are consistent and do not treat applicants or employees differently. This can include providing that the same individual makes all decisions regarding an applicant’s or employee’s criminal record.
Additionally, it is important to note that federal law prohibits discrimination based on race and national origin. Using criminal records checks, therefore, must be conducted in compliance with EEOC guidelines. This can be accomplished by limiting the scope of an employer’s request to what is job-related, keeping information about an applicant’s criminal history confidential, and allowing all candidates to explain their convictions. Taking these measures can help ensure that business leaders are not violating federal employment law and are not unfairly refusing to hire qualified applicants or employees with criminal records.