Filling open positions with qualified candidates is difficult for hiring managers at women owned businesses as reviewing hundreds of applications and resumes is a time-consuming process. Hiring managers must also ensure that candidates do not put employers at risk. If an applicant is hired and then harms a customer or engages in criminal activity against the employer, the employer incurs a significant liability.
Conducting a thorough background check is a practical way for hiring managers to mitigate these risks.
However, it is important to conduct the applicant screening process accordance with equal opportunity guidelines.
Equal Opportunity Employment Laws
Equal opportunity guidelines are designed to prevent employment discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, age, disability, or sex. These categories place applicants in protected classes.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.
In recent years, the EEOC has issued guidance on acceptable use of criminal background checks in hiring decisions. This guidance seeks to abolish employment discrimination against ex-offenders who may be qualified for a job despite having a criminal history. The guidance also responds to ex-offenders’ historical inability to attain employment due to the disproportionate arrest and conviction of minorities in the United States, and has been effective in combating the once common practice of blanket rejecting candidates with criminal records.
The EEOC advises employers to conduct individualized assessments on candidates with criminal records by developing “a targeted screen considering at least the nature of the crime, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job.”
If an employer’s hiring policies result in a disparate impact on protected groups as defined by the EEOC, the employer risks facing a discrimination lawsuit.
Any rejection of an applicant’s employment based on criminal history must be consistent with business necessity, related to the job position, and avoid disparate impact of a protected class.
How Can Women Owned Businesses Comply with Equal Opportunity Guidelines?
Here are some best practices to follow that reduce the chances of violating equal opportunity guidelines when conducting background checks:
Understand how the difference between an arrest and a conviction can affect hiring decisions. An arrest alone does not prove a person committed a crime. A conviction is generally accepted as evidence that an applicant engaged in criminal conduct. That is why the appropriate question to ask during an interview or on a job applicant is “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”
Develop a narrowly defined written policy and procedure for conducting background checks that screen applicants for criminal conduct. Include an explicit rationale for the policy and procedure that shows how an applicant’s criminal history relates to the available position.
In accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, obtain permission from the applicant to conduct a background check.
Also, provide applicants with notice prior to taking adverse action as a result of information obtained through a background screening.
Be sure to clearly document how the applicant’s criminal record or credit history may impact their ability to adequately perform the job.
Partnering with a knowledgeable background screening service can help women owned businesses maintain compliance with equal opportunity guidelines.