St. Joseph Michigan Criminal Defense Blog

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Seeking Clarity on the EEOC’s Background Check Guidelines

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC for short, is a government organization that works to ensure employers treat potential and current employees fairly regardless of their race, gender, or age. The essential governing rules of the EEOC are born from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which designates specific classes of people and protects those classes from employment discrimination.

According to recently issued guidelines, criminal background checks executed by employers must be performed with respect to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In other words, if an employer wishes to perform a background check on an employee, he cannot elect to pick and choose who to background check on the basis of age, race, or gender. Selectively background checking individuals based on their race would be considered profiling by the EEOC.

Many employers require that new employees and applicants submit to a background check to ensure they’re not hiding a criminal history. However, these background checks must fall within the guidelines established by the EEOC if employers want to avoid an investigation. Note: The EEOC does not create binding rules for businesses, but businesses that do not follow the EEOC’s guidelines are more likely to draw attention or legal action. Michigan criminal attorneys have been working to better understand the new guidelines and how they’re applied by employers.

The confusion occurs in enforcement; ex-offenders, which are most affected by background checks, are not considered a protected class under Title VII, which means that businesses attempting to cut ex-offenders out of their employment ranks may or may not be violating the EEOC’s guidelines depending on how exactly they go about deploying the background checks. If an employer is attempting to predict a person’s likelihood of being an ex-offender based on his race, he would be violating the EEOC’s background check guidelines. But not hiring an ex-offender doesn’t technically violate Title VII, which makes things more complicated for individuals searching for a job.

Because the rules are largely unclear and somewhat controversial, it’s not always apparent when a violation of the EEOC’s new guidelines has occurred. It’s recommended that ex-offenders consult a Michigan criminal attorney for assistance in determining how to proceed with employers trying to work under the EEOC’s new guidelines and you can do that via or contact us at 269.982.1100.

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