WASHINGTON - The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is warning employers that it is illegal to use a prospective employee's past conviction records, even for serious felonies, as an "absolute measure" as to whether they should be hired because this "could limit the employment opportunities of some protected groups."
This is, the EEOC says, because blacks and Hispanics are over-represented among felons.
"Blacks and Hispanics also have an unfortunate higher high school and college dropout rates than whites and Asians -- surely this could be determined to be a disparate impact. Does that mean the EEOC could mandate that employers cannot consider an applicant's education? Where will it stop?" asks Justin Danhof, general counsel of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "It is unfortunate that the EEOC is placing outdated racial politics ahead of the American workforce at a time when employers should be encouraged to hire, but this mentality will likely make businesses think twice about plans for expansion. Employers should be free to consider the full content of an applicant's character when making hiring decisions."
"Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin," said Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "It does not ban discrimination based on character. Furthermore, it's odd that an agency charged with stopping racism and sexism in hiring has adopted a policy that will help more white males than members of any other group."
"The EEOC should not be trying to micromanage private hiring decisions beyond the authority given to it by Congress," added Ridenour, "which this wrongheaded policy surely does. And pity the poor employer, fearful on the one hand of being charged with racism if he does not hire a felon -- white though that felon might be -- but fearful on the other of being sued by his other employees, should that felon commit a crime at the workplace that harms them. Certainly employers should be permitted to hire felons; even applauded when appropriate, but they should not be made to feel they could be asked to defend themselves in court if they do not."
The National Center for Public Policy Research, established in 1982, is a non-partisan, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) think-tank with over 100,000 recent donors .