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Industry Awaits EEOC Decision on Criminal-Background Checks

Many employers are apprehensively awaiting the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) ruling on a guideline that could limit an employer’s ability to use criminal background checks during the hiring process. Despite a fury of opposition, observers believe the EEOC is leaning towards enacting such restrictions. David French, senior vice president for government relations at the Washington-based National Retail Federation, wrote in a letter to the EEOC, “The retail industry wants to keep our workplaces safe,” he said. “Removing a first line of defense, specifically the criminal-background-history question on an employment application, leaves retailers, shoppers and the entire business community at a disadvantage.” Others are concerned the new EEOC guidelines could place new unnecessary demands on businesses that further complicate the hiring process. Proponents such as Stephen Saltzburg, a professor at George Washington Law School, argues the current system often results in, “unjustified and discriminatory barriers to persons whose criminal records are unrelated to the employment at issue and whose records maintained by government databases are inaccurate or incomplete.”

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