Criminal Background Checks: Good in Theory, Problems in Practice

One of the longest held axioms in social science is, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” Over the years many employers have increasingly relied upon criminal background checks as the principle strategy used to screen out potentially risky hires from the workforce. The problem is, as expressed by another axiom of behavioral science, namely, “People often make bad decisions early in life.” These bad decisions, which they later regret, usually are not permanent. People can recover, rehabilitate themselves, and turn their lives around.

In making hiring decisions, Richard C Hollinger, Ph.D. states that “find ourselves at the horns of a dilemma. Most people who are convicted of a crime, especially property offenses, will never offend again and not become a threat to society. The problem is that we do not have very good tools to predict who will be successfully rehabilitated and who will offend again. As such, most employers, on the advice of legal counsel and risk management, choose to err on the conservative side of this question. This means, if a person has been convicted in their past, we generally exclude these individuals as candidates for employment forever. The net effect of this policy is gross discrimination. This is especially true for those who have used drugs, stolen anything, and who are male minorities, particularly true for African American males.”

Dr. Hollinger hopes that the retail industry will embrace and implement the new EEOC guidelines to change their present hiring policies. He also asserts that social science research literature supports the new EEOC hiring guidelines. Moreover, he states that one could argue that the industry that hires the largest number of employees in our country should be the one to lead the rest of the nation in reducing the level of racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and other forms of unwarranted discrimination.

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Posted Under: Criminal Records

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