People With Criminal Records “Need Not Apply”

March 23, 2011 · Print This Article


Hopefully your company doesn’t have this kind of policy…

(Source: According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP) more than one in four U.S. adults — roughly 65 million people –have an arrest or conviction that shows up in a routine criminal background check, and a new report from NELP finds that these Americans are facing unprecedented barriers to employment. With the rapidly expanding use of background checks, employers are routinely, and often illegally, excluding all job applicants who have criminal records from consideration, no matter how minor or dated their offenses.

The new report highlights the widespread and illegal use of blanket no-hire policies by providing numerous examples of online job ads posted on Craigslist, including some by major corporations, that effectively bar significant portions of the U.S. population from work opportunities. Because of their blunt impact and extreme overreach, these blanket no-hire policies have become the subject of increasing litigation, attracting heightened scrutiny from the courts and concerned policymakers. At the same time, 92 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks, according to a 2010 Society for Human Resources Management survey.

The NELP report, entitled “65 Million ‘Need Not Apply’: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment,” surveys online job ads posted on Craigslist in five major cities—San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Atlanta. The survey found numerous examples in which extreme requirements precluded consideration of anyone with a criminal record, in clear violation of federal civil rights law. Major companies, such as Domino’s Pizza, the Omni Hotel, and Adecco USA, were just some of the employers that listed entry-level jobs on Craigslist—ranging from warehouse workers to delivery drivers to sales clerks—that unambiguously shut the door on applicants with criminal records.

Read the rest of the article here.

Download the NELP report:  “65 Million ‘Need Not Apply’: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment” (PDF)

How Do You Become a Model Employer and Comply with the Law?


(Source: NELP’s guide to best practices for employers who conduct criminal background checks)

Step 1
Identify positions that require a background check under state or federal law, or that require a background check due to the sensitivity of the job. You are not required by law to perform a background check for most positions.

Step 2
Do not request criminal history information on the initial job application. Inquire into an individual’s criminal history only after the applicant has been selected as a final candidate.
Many cities, states, and even some federal agencies delay background checks because “it is generally more practical and cost-effective.” (U.S. Office of Personnel Management Regulations.)

Step 3
If you conduct a background check, be sure to comply with the legal requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

First, give notice to the applicant and get the worker’s consent. If the background report includes criminal history information, provide a copy to the applicant and allow the applicant to contest or explain the information included before making an employment decision.

See the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.) and the Federal Trade Commission ( for your obligations. Your state may have additional requirements.

Step 4
Consider only job-related and recent convictions when making an employment decision. Consideration of arrest information likely violates federal civil rights law and may violate state law.

See the EEOC Policy Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest Records (

Step 5
Be sure to comply with the legal requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e).

Deny employment only if the conviction is job-related and doing so is consistent with “business necessity.”

Be sure to consider the following factors:

1. The nature or gravity of the offense or offenses;
2. The bearing, if any, of the offense(s) on any specific responsibilities of the job or position;
3. The time that has elapsed since the offense;
4. The age of the applicant or employee at the time of the offense;
5. Any evidence of rehabilitation.

See the EEOC Policy Statement on the Issue of Conviction Records (

Step 6
Let the community know that you are a model employer committed to considering all qualified candidates and building a diverse workforce.

Reach out to the local Chambers of Commerce, Workforce Investment Boards and other local partners to publicize your model practices.

Download NELP’s guide to best practices for employers who conduct criminal background checks (PDF).

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