Screening out felons as job applicants?

by Walter Olson on September 9, 2010

Prepare to meet the EEOC’s wrath [AP/Law.com]. The topic is not new; I wrote about it for Reason quite a while back. More: Julie DelCour, Tulsa World.

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09.10.10 at 10:05 am

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1 Anonymous Attorney 09.09.10 at 11:13 am

There would be much screaming and gnashing of teeth if someone suggested, in another context, that blacks or Hispanics commit crimes out of proportion to their percentage of the population. That would be “racist.” But in circumstances where that fact can be pled in the supposed ADVANCEMENT of blacks and Hispanics, well, then it becomes an uncontroversial truth.

2 delurking 09.09.10 at 11:15 am

What will happen when the EEOC realizes that both criminal records and credit problems are pretty important factors in DOD security clearances? It will be fun to watch those agencies butt heads.

3 Paul 09.09.10 at 12:39 pm

Felons should be afforded some benefit of the doubt after a certain number of years have passed. Some people do change.

4 ras 09.09.10 at 3:04 pm

Et al,

What if you consistently buy your morning coffee at one shop but not another because the other shop is staffed by some real mean-looking dudes who frighten you?

Should you be punished for your choice if it can ultimately be shown to have a disparate impact? Would it make a difference if you had first heard that the guy who runs the other shop had a record including several violent felonies?

5 nevins 09.09.10 at 6:19 pm

Read another way the data suggest that blacks and hispanics are not hurt disproportionately.
Indeed, screening for felons induces bias against felons, and felons alone. And felony cuts across all walks of life (think white jews like Bernie Madoff). You can argue about the fairness of it all for felons, but under virtually any conceivable situation where two people are otherwise similarly qualified, the non-felon is the better bet.
Most felons happen to be non-black and non-hispanic and most most blacks and hispanics are not felons. This suggests that it is felons being targeted, not blacks and hispanics.

6 Jay Markowitz 09.09.10 at 8:03 pm

Seems to me that the EEOC is cowtowing to Obama’s civil rights bully Thomas Perez, who vows to use “disparate impact theory” to pursue discrimination cases where there is no intent to discriminate but a difference results.

7 Ace of Sevens 09.09.10 at 8:30 pm

This doesn’t necessarily mean black and Hispanics commit more crimes, only that they are more likely to be convicted for them. I don’t know how it is for other categories, but polls shows all races use drugs at roughly the same rate, but conviction statistics show whites are far less like to end up in jail over it.

8 Joe 09.09.10 at 8:56 pm

Unbelievable. Shouldn’t employers at least be able to screen people who have a violent history and continued mental health problems? I understand that even ex-felons need a job, but what else is there to do?

9 Jason Barney 09.09.10 at 9:12 pm

God forbid you knowlingly hire a felon (or negligently hire one) and he/she assaults someone or otherwise does something inappropriate during the course of their employment. Prepare to pay up, since you should have known better–right?

10 William Nuesslein 09.10.10 at 9:57 am

For Ace of Sevens

Is the disproportionate designation of felon due to racial differences or enforcement differences? That can be tested by looking at homicides where precautionary discretion is limited. The last I looked the murder rate per person rate for blacks was 6 or 7 times that of whites. And there was a large RAND study of some years ago that tested whether sentences for blacks were more severe than for whites after adjusting for severity of crimes. There was no difference.

Yes, there are too many people in jail for drug involvement, but my understanding is that such over criminalization explains little of our high incarceration rates.

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