Background checks on job applicants are common practice among employers. Generally, they don’t turn up anything. But things get a bit trickier if a background check does find something. How should you handle it?
Situations like these need to be handled on a case by case basis, depending on a number of different factors, such as the type of offense, whether there was an arrest or conviction, how long ago the offense occurred, and the kind of job the person is applying for. In order for the offense to be a valid reason for eliminating someone from consideration, the criminal conduct must relate directly to the person’s ability to perform the duties of the job.
There are also legal considerations involved. The EEOC has ruled that denying a person a job solely on the basis of a criminal background check has the effect of being discriminatory against certain classes of people, even if that may not be the intention. This is another reason why each case needs to be handled on its own merits.
If the person has been arrested, but not convicted of a crime, that by itself cannot be used to deny a person a job. However, what the person did that led to the arrest can be considered when making a hiring decision. However, if the person was convicted of a crime, that is proof that he or she was involved in criminal conduct and that can be taken into consideration.
Looking at the type of offense, the employer needs to consider how serious it was — a felony, which is a more serious crime, or a simple misdemeanor, for example. Was the crime a theft, or did it involve threats or intimidation?
Another thing to take into consideration is how long ago the offense occurred. Naturally, if it was more recent, it would have a greater bearing on a hiring decision.
Also, employers need to look at the nature and duties of the job with reference to the crime to determine if the offense could affect the ability to do the job.
When doing such a review, the employer needs to inform the applicant that his or her past criminal conduct may result in the person not being considered for the job. The person should be given the opportunity to respond and explain why he should not be dropped from consideration.
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