The main goal of the hiring process is to make sure that the most qualified candidate is selected for the available position at an organization or company. Human resource (HR) professionals spend a considerable amount of time reviewing applicant resumes and narrowing down the pool of candidates who will advance to the next stage.

Many HR professionals use a combination of criminal history background screening information, employment history, and education to determine which candidates will move forward. However, hiring managers need to be careful not to violate any rules set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Here’s what HR professionals should know about the EEOC.

EEOC Investigates Discrimination

The EEOC investigates complaints of discrimination against job candidates and employees. Federal laws prohibit employers from considering a person’s race, ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, and age in hiring or promotion decisions.

For example, when it comes to a person’s sex, you cannot include whether a candidate is male or female, single or married, pregnant or has children in your employment decision. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation.

The EEOC requires organizations to collect and report workforce data to ensure compliance with federal laws, even if no discrimination complaint has been filed against the employer. Employers are also required to post notices in visible areas informing job applicants and employees about their rights under federal anti-discrimination laws.

The EEOC also investigates discriminatory practices in recruitment. For example, recruitment advertising that specifies an age range (“looking for candidates ages 18-24”) is vulnerable to a discrimination complaint by an older adult.

Do Background Checks Have to be EEOC Compliant?

HR professionals also have to be very careful with pre-employment background screenings. The EEOC maintains that certain practices involved with pre-employment background screenings are prohibited. For example, it is illegal to inquire about a person’s disability or medical history during a pre-employment screening.

Additionally, HR managers need to be cautious with how they use information obtained in a background screening, such as criminal record and credit history, in hiring decisions. Using this information could unintentionally screen out candidates in a protected class. This would leave an employer open to an allegation of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

To avoid this, HR professionals should make sure the questions they are asking as part of a background screening have a clear relation to the available position. They must be relevant to the qualifications and performance of the job for which the candidate has applied.

For instance, if a hiring manager screens out a hostess candidate because she has a conviction for check fraud, the employer may susceptible to a charge of discrimination. This is because the candidate’s conviction is unrelated to the functions of her job.

A knowledgeable background screening provider can assist HR professionals with designing pre-employment inquiries and screening programs that are EEOC compliant.

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