EEOC Targets Background Checks


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is in the midst of an initiative to eliminate any discrimination against those in protected categories during the recruitment process.  To that end, the EEOC brought an action in 2009 against the Freeman Companies alleging that their background checks for prior criminal convictions disparately impacted protected category applicants.  Late this summer, a Maryland federal court dismissed the EEOC's case based primarily on inadequate expert testimony.  However, the court also stated that "some specific uses of criminal....background checks may be discriminatory and violate the provision[s] of Title VII (the federal anti-discrimination law)".  The lesson for employers is to review their background check procedures and results with employment counsel to ensure compliance with the discrimination laws.