Recent studies further debate about background checks leading to discrimination

Posted by Kristina Taylor
September 26, 2011

Recent studies further debate about background checks leading to discrimination

For awhile now there has been some debate about whether employment screening is discriminatory against some minorities. Attorneys with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have charged that blacks and Latinos are having a harder time finding jobs in the age of pre-employment screening because these minority groups have higher rates of arrests and convictions than whites. Some advocacy groups disagree, including Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research that is a leading voice of the African-American community. But the issue has resulted in much debate and several lawsuits citing workplace discrimination.

Now a recent letter from three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights stands to open the debate further. The letter claims recent studies suggest the use of criminal background checks does not automatically lead to lower hiring rates of minorities. The letter cited a 2006 research paper — “Perceived Criminality, Criminal Background Checks and the Racial Hiring Practices of Employers” by Harry Holzer, Steven Raphael, and Michael Stoll – that analyzed the effect of criminal background checks on the hiring of blacks and found that employers using criminal background checks were more likely to hire black workers, especially men, than those who didn’t have that information. Another study conducted by Stoll found that, in the absence of performing criminal background checks, employers were likely to discriminate using age or race as indicators of past activities.

These studies will no doubt further the debate about this issue. Stay tuned for further developments!

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