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Issue of Background Checks in the Workplace

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Employment
Wordcount: 1284 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Background Checks in the Workplace

I.  Overview

For many years, employers have conducted background checks on potential employees.   Americans with a criminal history have risen over the past three decades. Approximately one-third of the adult employed have some type of criminal record.  The issue that has been found within completing background checks, is that it may be discriminatory for those who have record.  With criminal background checks being performed, it ultimately helps to mitigate the issues of workplace hostility.  Background checks can have an impact on potential employees in a negative way.   Performing background checks during pre-employment screening can help confirm your hiring decision and keep your business profitable and productive.

II. Problem

When we look at background checks, it has shown that employees get to verify your identity, look at your credit report, and your criminal record.  The issue with this is that it seems to be a very discriminatory practice of ethnic races.  When an employee conducts a background check on an employee, regardless of how they are presented on their resume or application, if they have a criminal background or a low credit score; they are instantly written off.   Over half of employers admit their primary reasoning behind background checks is to lessen legal liability rather than workplace safety.  Statistically, it has shown that employers have purportedly screened out more than 300 minority job candidates due to their criminal records (Mauer, 2014).  The ethical issue presented with this, is more than 80% of these applicants had not been in any further trouble and the arrest records were more than five years old. 

III. Significance of the Problem

The significance of screening out potential candidates because of previous criminal records can often come off as racial issue, as most candidates are minorities.  TransUnion data shows that nearly 1 in 4 reports contain a criminal record (Collatz, 2018).  Criminal record checks can be a crucial step to employment of candidates with assurance, but not all criminal record checks are created identical.    The EEOC noted that arrest and incarceration rates are high for African American and Hispanic men and so a blanket exclusion of applicants with criminal backgrounds is likely to have disparate impact and thus be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Carroll, Brown, & Buckholtz, 2018).  Although a criminal record doesn’t necessarily prohibit a candidate definitely; it vastly limits the candidate’s ability to obtain employment that may be within their qualifications.  Fatigued labours with arrest records may settle on certain occupations that are less choosy but that often pay less than minimum wage and a inferior job for their skills.  The biggest issue that I see with this, is there are multiple college graduates with fresh ideas and the drive to help build a successful company or a take a multibillion-dollar company to the next level, but their past is hindering them.  

IV. Development of Alternative Actions

Alternative Action 1.  Removing questions that pertain to criminal records.

Advantages.  The advantage to this, is it opens the door for more qualified applicants to obtain jobs that are within their skillset.  This also allows the projected 33% of adults with a criminal past get an open-minded opportunity of finding work, by encouraging employers to assess their credentials and qualifications before refuting employment.   Some laws explicitly prevent employers from asking about nonconviction arrests or expunged records at any time during the hiring process (Mauer, 2014).

Disadvantages.  On the opposing side, by removing questions pertaining to criminal records, it opens the door for those with an extensive criminal record including possible multiple felonies.  Due to not being able to ask certain questions, potential employers will have no idea what the candidate is truly capable of when it comes to legalities.

Alternative Action 2:  Conduct a background screening process that follows federal and state laws.  

Advantages.  When conducting a background check that follows federal and state laws an employer immediately knows about a candidate’s pertinent criminal background and this will prevent them from facing negligent hiring claims if the employee is suspected of further wrongdoing.   Also following federal and state laws help to mitigate any false claims against the employer of any type of discrimination.

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Disadvantages.  Contingent on the kind of job proprietors are hiring for, they might need supplementary information from their applicants and ask information pertaining to their background check for employment.  This can be seen as a discriminatory practice because the employer did not follow a hiring matrix (Lamb, 2018).   Legal topics are an essential topic to be well-thought-out once you began establishing company policies on hiring a candidate with a criminal record.  Often times following rules and regulations leave open a grey area that can lead to lawsuits for discriminatory practices against those with a criminal record that hold just a basic misdemeanor.

V.  Recommendation

My recommendation is to implement a hiring matrix based off legality. Nine out of 10 employers run criminal background screens on applicants as part of the hiring process (Mauer, 2014).   Background checks are essential part of employment as it gives an idea of what a person is capable of.  As an employer myself, I look beyond the criminal background check.  I look at

the type of crime and if that candidate has been involved in legal issues since.  Often, it takes compassion to understand a person’s mistake and help them move forward.  Following protocols of federal laws helps to mitigate acts of discrimination and to hire the best candidate for the job.  


Works Cited

  • Carroll, A. B., Brown, J. A., & Buckholtz, A. K. (2018). Business & Society: Ethics, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Management. Boston: Cengage Learning.
  • Collatz, A. (2018, August 23). What Does A Background Check Show For Pre-Employment Screening? Retrieved from Transunion: https://hires.shareable.com/blog/what-does-a-background-check-show
  • Lamb, D. (2018, February 14). Five Critical Steps of Criminal Record Check Compliance. Retrieved from Sterling Talent Solutions: https://www.sterlingtalentsolutions.com/blog/2018/02/five-critical-steps-criminal-record-check-compliance/
  • Mauer, R. (2014, May 5). When Background Screens Turn Up Criminal Records. Retrieved from Society For Human Resource Management: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/risk-management/pages/background-screens-criminal-records.aspx


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