HUD to private landlords: from now on, prepare to defend a discrimination suit if you decline to rent to felons. After all, any such rule might have disparate impact on members of protected groups. [NPR] Julia Vitullo-Martin writes: “Amazing, given that government — in the form of public housing — has refused to rent to felons since Clinton administration reforms.”
- Now watch out for the next phase of the “ban the box” effort, which will demand that private employers not be allowed to ask about applicants’ criminal records [Open Society via @georgesoros]
- “We have one restaurant in Seattle, and we probably won’t be expanding there. That’s true of San Francisco and Los Angeles, too.” [Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith via David Boaz]
- New York Times reporting vs. nail salons: the video [Reason, earlier] The other Greenhouse effect, in this case Steven: Times “sees the labor beat as having essentially an advocacy mission.” [Adam Ozimek]
- The lawsuits of September: “the EEOC has once again rushed to file a blitz of federal court complaints just under the fiscal year wire” [Matthew Gagnon, Christopher DeGroff, and Gerald Maatman, Jr., Seyfarth Shaw]
- I was a guest on Ray Dunaway’s morning drive time show on WTIC (Hartford) talking about cop fitness tests and the blind barber suit, you can listen here:
- NYC Commission on Human Rights — with an assist from Demos and New Economy Project — runs public ads saying “There’s no evidence that shows a link between credit reports and job performance. That’s why NYC made it illegal to use credit reports in employment decisions.” The “Suburbanist” responds: “We will punish those who depart from our null hypotheses regarding their business. Human rights indeed.”
- What are the biggest legal questions facing employers? “What is work?” and “Who is an employee?” are a start [Jon Hyman]
Commenter Gitarcarver on yesterday’s item about how some in the Charlotte Police Department have talked about designating “public safety zones” where persons who have previously been arrested would be forbidden to go:
The City wants to make these zones based on arrests (not convictions.)
At the same time, an employer cannot ask whether a person has been arrested. Of course, there is now the push for “ban the box” which means an employer cannot ask about a conviction.
The City wants to say it can ban people and arrest people from public property, but those private companies can’t even ask about those convictions (much less arrests) during the initial hiring process.
THAT makes sense.
Automaker BMW in Spartanburg, S.C. began conducting criminal background checks on logistics workers and dismissed about 100 existing employees under guidelines that “excluded from employment all persons with convictions in certain categories of crime” not distinguishing misdemeanor from felony or recent from long-ago convictions. About 80 percent of the dismissed employees were black, and the EEOC sued, saying that because the application of the check program had a disparate impact, BMW was obliged to, but had not, properly validated its policy in detail for “business necessity.” A federal judge declined to dismiss the case and BMW has now agreed to pay $1.6 million and offer jobs to 56 discharged employees as well as up to 90 who had applied but not been hired under the policy. [Judy Greenwald, Business Insurance via Jon Hyman] The EEOC in recent years has led a crackdown on employer use of criminal background checks.
It’s like some weird inversion of the (itself bad) big-city trend toward “ban-the-box” laws restricting private employers’ right to ask about criminal records: Amherst County, Virginia, has passed a law under which the county can revoke the business license of any business that employs a convicted felon, or one convicted of a misdemeanor involving “moral turpitude.” [Eugene Volokh]
The so-called ban-the-box movement, which aims to curtail what it sees as improper discrimination against job applicants with criminal records, claims one of its biggest victories yet at the expense of private employers, with strong support from New York City’s left-leaning City Council. [Ford Harrison]
More: NYU lawprof James Jacobs, author of The Eternal Criminal Record, in a Cato podcast with Cato’s Tim Lynch (more) and guestblogging at Volokh Conspiracy in February first, second, third, fourth, fifth posts.
- “Courts remind EEOC again: Background checks don’t equal racism” [Todd Lebowitz, The Hill; my take on EEOC v. Freeman]
- Another lesson of Old Dominion (boozing truck driver) verdict: employers’ “open door” grievance policies may harbor potential liabilities [Jon Hyman]
- Caseloads: “Three Observations about the New EEOC Statistics” [Daniel Schwartz]
- “Employers seek to halt EEOC’s efforts to drum up plaintiffs for its ‘Onionhead’ lawsuit” [Hyman]
- Reform bills in House hopper include HR 548 (protects employer use of credit or criminal records), HR 549 (requires vote of commission to approve litigation against multiple defendants or over systemic/pattern-and-practice discrimination), HR 550 (requires disclosure of results of litigation that have reached judgment; requires certification that pre-filing conciliation has reached impasse, and allows judicial review of EEOC conduct during conciliation) More: Hearing Monday on these three and H.R. 1189, “Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act”;
- “EEOC’s Strange War Against ObamaCare And Employer Wellness Plans” [Eric Dreiband]
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has “invited the public to comment on ‘significant existing EEOC regulations to determine whether they should be modified, streamlined, expanded or repealed,'” comments period ends April 20 [Insurance Journal; address to Public.Comments.RegulatoryReview @ eeoc.gov]
This time it’s the Fourth Circuit, upholding a trial judge, finding “pervasive errors and utterly unreliable analysis” in the expert reports submitted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the case of EEOC v. Freeman. I’ve written it up at Cato at Liberty, where I also recommend, as providing something of a more balanced view of the criminal record hiring issue, a briefing report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
- Jury convicts Ironworkers Local 401 boss in union violence case [Philadelphia Inquirer, CBS Philly, earlier here, etc. on Quaker meetinghouse arson and other crimes] Pennsylvania lawmaker proposes to end unions’ exemption from laws defining crimes of harassment, stalking, threatening [York Dispatch; more on exemption of unions from these laws]
- Emergent regime under federal law: if you’ve ever offered light duty to a disabled worker or returning injured worker, you’d better offer it to pregnant worker too [Jon Hyman]
- Everything you know about company towns is wrong [Alex Tabarrok]
- “The EEOC issues you’ll want to keep an eye on in 2015” [Littler Mendelson via Tim Gould, HR Morning]
- Sued if you do: employers struggle to navigate between government rules encouraging, penalizing hiring of applicants with criminal records [WSJ, paywall] “Watch Your Back: The Growing Threat of FCRA Background Check Class Actions” [Gregory Snell, Foley & Lardner]
- “Nearly 30 Percent of Workers in the U.S. Need a License to Perform Their Job: It Is Time to Examine Occupational Licensing Practices” [Melissa S. Kearney, Brad Hershbein and David Boddy, Brookings via John Cochrane]
- “The Effect of Mandatory Sick Leave Policies: Reviewing the Evidence” [Max Nelsen] “Popularity of Obama’s paid sick leave proposal depends on workers not realizing it ultimately comes out of their paychecks.” [James Sherk]
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission told a district court that it should not have to reveal its own policies regarding criminal background checks because that information is not relevant to the discrimination cases it files against private companies.
Background from Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer’s Law Blog:
This argument [advanced by automaker BMW, whose policies the EEOC is challenging] is not novel. At least two other federal courts have compelled the EEOC to turn over similar information in similar cases (here and here). The words of one of those courts is particularly instructive:
If Plaintiff uses hiring practices similar to those used by Defendant, this fact may show the appropriateness of those practices, particularly because Plaintiff is the agency fighting unfair hiring practices.… Further, Defendant is not required to accept Plaintiff’s position in its briefs that the two entities’ practices are dissimilar – Defendant is entitled to discovery on this issue as it relates to Defendant’s defense.
Intellectual dishonesty is offensive. If the EEOC has policies that screen-out certain felons, then the EEOC should not publish enforcement guidance that limits this practice, and should not pursue litigation that challenges this practice.
And a Sept. 17 House subcommittee hearing on EEOC adventurism, reported at Employee Screen, includes this on possible reforms:
Proposed legislation discussed at the hearing included H.R. 4959, the “EEOC Transparency and Accountability Act”, which would require the EEOC to maintain up-to-date information on its website regarding charges and actions brought by the EEOC; H.R. 5422, “Litigation Oversight Act of 2014”, which would require the EEOC to approve by a majority vote to begin or intervene in litigation involving multiple plaintiffs or systemic discrimination; and H.R. 5423, “Certainty in Enforcement Act of 2014”, which would protect employers from EEOC action in cases that specifically involve criminal background checks required by state or local law. …
[The subcommittee chair, Michigan Republican Rep. Tim] Walberg noted that 19 stakeholders representing a wide variety of constituents signed a letter supporting all three bills, which included the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), SHRM, and other professional, healthcare, retail and food service organizations.