“Push to ban crime box on job applications expands”

by Walter Olson on December 13, 2013

The federal EEOC has been helping prepare the ground with guidance indicating that it legally disfavors asking job applicants about criminal records across a wide range of situations. Meanwhile, activists in places like San Francisco seek local laws banning the practice in private employment, following successful campaigns to end it in the public sector. [San Francisco Chronicle]

{ 7 comments }

1 Canvasback 12.13.13 at 1:25 am

Is this like the govt. admitting their faux pas in criminalizing so much behavior that it’s cutting into their income tax revenue?

2 Jim Collins 12.13.13 at 10:27 am

Will this law give the employer immunity from lawsuits, if they hire somebody with a criminal record. I seem to remember reading here about a hotel being sued after one of their employees raped and murdered a woman and her daughter. The lawsuit said that the hotel didn’t protect it’s customers, because, the employee had a criminal record.

3 Mike 12.13.13 at 10:50 am

Canvasback: Well, no…this is a racial issue. “But for” the enormous number of minorities (who are now the majority, I think) with criminal records, there would be no real push for these laws restricting employers.
The San Fran Chronicle article is clearly a puff piece. I wonder how many violent felons THEY employ?

4 nl7 12.13.13 at 3:40 pm

Seems like possible side effect is that employers will have to use less direct factors to guess who might be a criminal, focusing on things like education, appearance, age, possibly ethnicity, and of course resume gaps. Which means that a high school grad with a two year resume gap is in danger of being assumed to be a criminal (perhaps heightened if black male, given the prevalence of unconscious prejudices and racist incarceration patterns) and is now in the awkward position of either preemptively discussing criminality (but with little way to prove it, presumably) or leaving it unaddressed for etiquette reasons and then risking negative assumptions.

Combined with anti-employment rules that make it harder to fire people and harder to pay low-productivity employees their actual value, you could see lots of people with lengthy resume gaps who on paper are tough to distinguish from criminals.

Interviewers will tend to rely on hunches, where necessary, which is likely to promote some unconscious prejudices. Or the rule will simply tend to exclude people with lengthy unemployment periods.

Of course, given how easy it is to google a name and general region and find mugshot sites and crime stories, is this really a plausible rule? It’s getting to the point where employers don’t need to ask, and that probably punishes interviewees who might otherwise be able to spin the experience if asked about it.

5 MattS 12.13.13 at 7:40 pm

“The San Fran Chronicle article is clearly a puff piece. I wonder how many violent felons THEY employ?”

You don’t understand at all, THEY only employ white collar criminals.

6 Bill Poser 12.13.13 at 10:33 pm

Is there federal legislation on this point or did the EEOC just decide on its own that criminals are a protected class?

7 TexJudge 12.17.13 at 1:46 pm

Let’s say I have a small local trucking company. I hire someone who has experience and seems good but, because of EEOC or other rules, I am unable to find out he has 2 DWI convictions. He then causes a wreck while operating one of my trucks and blows a .20, over twice the limit. Will I be liable for the injuries he caused when there was no way I could have known he liked to drive drunk? Given the fact that the Democratic Party and the judiciary of many states are controlled by plaintiff’s lawyers, my defense that the government precluded me from checking him out will fall on deaf ears.

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