The EEOC’s Guidance on Criminal Records in Employment Decisions: What Employers Need to Know

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    eeoc background checks for employees

    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released updated enforcement guidance on using criminal records in employment decisions. This guidance provides valuable insights for employers seeking to avoid discrimination and ensure a fair hiring process. Here’s what employers need to know:

    Eliminating “Blanket” Policies

    The EEOC guidance advises employers to eliminate “blanket” policies that automatically exclude applicants with a criminal record. 

    Adopting a more individualized approach to screening can help ensure that job candidates are evaluated based on their qualifications and not unfairly excluded due to their criminal history. Employers should develop a written policy tailored to their specific screening needs and identify the essential job requirements and circumstances under which the jobs are performed.

    Identifying Specific Offenses

    Employers should also identify offenses that demonstrate “unfitness” for performing the job. Employers can make more informed and fair decisions by identifying offenses relevant to the job. For example, an applicant with a history of embezzlement may not be a good fit for a financial role, while someone with a DUI may not be suitable for a job that requires driving.

    Educating Managers and Hiring Officers

    The EEOC guidance emphasizes educating managers and hiring officers about Title VII and employment discrimination. This includes training on how to avoid making discriminatory employment decisions based on race, ethnicity, or other protected characteristics. 

    By educating these individuals, employers can ensure that they are aware of the potential for discrimination and are equipped to make fair and informed decisions.

    Limiting Inquiries and Maintaining Confidentiality

    Employers should also keep information about applicants’ and employees’ criminal records confidential and limit inquiries to job-related records consistent with business necessity. This can help protect against claims of discrimination or privacy violations. 

    By maintaining confidentiality and limiting inquiries, employers can ensure that they only use criminal record information for its intended purpose.


    In conclusion, the EEOC’s guidance on using criminal records in employment decisions provides employers with valuable insights for ensuring a fair hiring process. 

    By eliminating “blanket” policies, identifying specific offenses, educating managers and hiring officers, and maintaining confidentiality, employers can make informed decisions that balance the need for workplace safety and security with the principles of equal opportunity and fairness.

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