Washington — Companies using criminal records or bad credit reports to screen out job applicants might run afoul of anti-discrimination laws as the government steps up scrutiny of hiring policies that can hurt blacks and Hispanics.
A blanket refusal to hire workers based on criminal records or credit problems can be illegal if it has a disparate impact on racial minorities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency enforces the nation’s employment discrimination laws.
“Our sense is that the problem is snowballing because of the technology allowing these checks to be done with a fair amount of ease,” said Carol Miaskoff, assistant legal counsel at the EEOC.
With millions of adults having criminal records — anything from underage drinking to homicide — a growing number of job seekers are having a rough time finding work. And more companies are trying to screen out people with bankruptcies, court judgments or other credit problems just as those numbers have swollen during the recession.
Just ask Adrienne Hudson, a single mother who says she was fired from her new job as a bus driver at First Transit in Oakland, Calif., when the company found out she had been convicted seven years earlier for welfare fraud.
Hudson, 44, is fighting back with a lawsuit alleging the company’s hiring practice discriminates against black and Latino job seekers, who have arrest and conviction rates far greater than whites. A spokesman for First Transit said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
“People make mistakes,” said Hudson, who is black, “but when they correct their mistake, they should not be punished again outside of the court system.”