Running Criminal Background Checks? Be Careful, at Least in the Big Apple

While criminal background checks are a common part of the hiring process for many companies, there has been legal pushback lately with federal and state authorities both launching cases against employers they say are using the checks unfairly. The thrust of complaints by both the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and New York State has been that blanket rejection of all applicants with a criminal background is not OK – especially if it can be proven that such a practice has a disproportionate impact on black or other minority applicants. While the federal EEOC’s complaint against BMW and Dollar General’s background check practices is ongoing, New York authorities have reached an agreement with a national home goods retailer to end its policy of disqualifying job seekers who have a felony record. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that Bed Bath & Beyond has promised to comply with laws prohibiting employers from automatically rejecting applicants with criminal convictions. As part of a settlement, the company agreed to pay $125,000. Most of the money will go to people denied employment and to organizations that help former offenders find jobs. Schneiderman’s office investigated the company following a complaint from a job fair.

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