In December 2012, the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) held hearings to discuss the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) April 2012 Policy Guidance (number 915.002) regarding businesses’ use of criminal background checks in hiring. Specifically, the EEOC Guidance bars the use of blanket policies against hiring ex-offenders in general, or convicted felons in particular. The EEOC’s position supports the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, established by Attorney General Holder, which aims to remove federal barriers to former prisoners’ successful reentry into society and reduce recidivism.
The EEOC considers blanket policies to be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because they have a “disparate impact” on African American and Hispanic men, who are incarcerated at rates two to three times higher than the general population. Disparate impact theory originated in the 1971 Supreme Court case of Griggs v. Duke Power, in which Duke Power’s policy of requiring its employees to have a high school diploma was found to have a disparate impact on African Americans.
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