Crime & Courts

Richmond Co. | Columbia Co. | Aiken Co. |

Ga., SC defend screening criminals

However, advocacy groups say ex-cons deserve a second chance

Monday, July 29, 2013 7:59 AM
Last updated 6:39 PM
  • Follow Crime & courts

When the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission started suing businesses for denying jobs to former convicts, the attorneys general of Georgia and South Carolina and seven other states began fighting back.

They sent a letter to the agency saying they were defending all U.S. businesses’ access to criminal screening as well as upholding some of their state laws that prohibit hiring former criminals in certain positions like daycare workers. But the EEOC argues refusal to hire people who have criminal records results in illegal -- if unintentional -- racial discrimination because more blacks than whites are behind bars.

The issue sets up a complex tug-of-war between competing policy interests.

On one hand is the desire to reduce burdens on businesses to begin hiring the types of workers they have confidence in. On the other is the goal of getting those who have paid their debt to society into productive employment so they’ll pay taxes, support their families and won’t be tempted to commit new crimes.

“It is sometimes difficult for employers to navigate all the details,” said Sarah H. Lamar, a labor lawyer with HunterMaclean in Savannah, Ga.

R. Daniel Beal, a labor lawyer with McKenna Long & Aldridge, one of the nation’s largest law firms, says the conflict puts employers in the middle.

“An employer can be caught between complying with a state law that has a blanket rule (against hiring one with a conviction for certain jobs) and the EEOC guidance,” he said.

Advocates for former prisoners argue that because most convictions are drug related and not for violent crimes or theft, then a conviction shouldn’t automatically disqualify a job applicant who might otherwise be well suited.

“With our clients, we always remember that a human being’s life is worth more than the worse decision they ever made. Once a person has gone to prison and done their time, we have to give them opportunities to turn over a new leaf,” said Sara Totonchi, executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Employment is difficult enough for anyone in this economy, but doubly so for a former inmate. Most end up in low-skill/low-wage jobs with no real responsibility.

Even state government can frustrate them. For example, Georgia prisons teach barbering skills to prepare inmates for jobs on the outside, but the state’s licensing board used to automatically reject any application that included a past conviction. That’s since changed, but other examples exist, advocates say.

Every year in the United States, 600,000 people leave prison. Blacks make up more than 40 percent even though they amount to only about 10 percent of the U.S. population.

That’s why the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has made it a priority to eliminate obstacles to their hiring. It worked with the EEOC on developing the agency’s newfound emphasis on criminal-background screening.

“The issue is making sure that employers know they should not discriminate against who have paid their debt to society,” said Hilary Shelton, the national organization’s senior vice president for policy.

In April, 2012, the agency issued a “guidance” which doesn’t have the force of a law but is meant to inform employers about the leanings of the administration. It said employers shouldn’t automatically reject applicants with a conviction but rather look at the individual circumstances of the crime, how long ago it happened and whether it applies to the job in question.

Several attorneys general raised objections.

Then last month, EEOC attorneys filed federal lawsuits against BMW Manufacturing in Spartanburg, S.C., and Dollar General stores in Chicago.

BMW changed subcontractors in its parts warehouse, and before the workers could move from the old subcontractor to the new one, BMW insisted on terminating any with a past conviction. Of the 88 workers fired, 80 percent were black, according to the suit, including some who had work in the warehouse for a dozen years.

Dollar General has a longstanding rule not to hire former convicts in its stores. Between 2004-07, it rejected 7 percent of non-black applicants and 10 percent of black applicants once convictions turned up in background checks despite initially offering them jobs conditional on the screening.

“The gross disparity in the rates at which black and non-black conditionally employees were discharged on account of defendant’s criminal background-check policy is statistically significant,” the EEOC lawyers wrote in the suit.

Both companies refused to budge when EEOC tried to negotiate.

Last week Dollar General issued a statement endorsing the stance of the attorneys general.

“We believe the letter is well-reasoned and grounded in both the law and common sense,” the statement read.

In their letter, the state officials argued that the EEOC is going beyond its mission to police discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race, religion and nationality.

“But no matter how unfair a bright-line, criminal-background check might seem to some, it is not your agency’s role to expand the protections of (the Civil Rights Act) under the pretext of preventing racial discrimination,” the attorneys general wrote. “If Congress wishes to protect former criminals from employment discrimination, it can amend the law.”

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said the nine letter signers are watching to see the legal reasoning in the lawsuits before deciding whether to join them as parties.

Background checks have saved lives, according to Olens. And so, failing to do them could open businesses to lawsuits from the victims of any new crimes by an employee with a criminal record, he said.

“In this world that we live in with sexual predators and whatever, clearly you have to check the criminal background of your son or daughters’ Little League coach,” he said. “And in this litigious world we live in, you have to expect that a parent would sue an employer for negligence if something happened.”

Comments (34) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
saywhatagain
409
Points
saywhatagain 07/29/13 - 08:17 am
13
1
When

When did the EEOC start doing this? During the Obama admin or earlier? Regardless, they had better screen applicants on this basis if they want to STAY in business. It's not government's job to make everyone happy and everything free.

Dudeness
1544
Points
Dudeness 07/29/13 - 08:49 am
10
2
We are allowed to

We are allowed to "discriminate" based on behavior. A criminal record is a reflection of poor behavior/judgment regardless of the individual's race. EEOC is really stretching beyond its boundaries.

Little Lamb
45819
Points
Little Lamb 07/29/13 - 08:49 am
10
1
Comment of the Month

I nominate saywhatagain for commenter of the month:

It’s not government’s job to make everyone happy and everything free.

corgimom
32145
Points
corgimom 07/29/13 - 08:56 am
10
3
If you don't want problems in

If you don't want problems in getting a job, don't get arrested and convicted of a crime.

It's that simple.

jimmymac
39070
Points
jimmymac 07/29/13 - 08:58 am
10
2
EEOC
Unpublished

I'm not surprised that the EEOC would say that denying someone with a criminal conviction is in their eyes discrimination based on race. With the vast majority of crime is committed in the black community it's no wonder businesses refusing to hire ex cons hits them disproportionally. I have advise for them. Quit being a felon and then maybe you can get a job from employers seeking honest workers. As for the EEOC it's staffed mostly by minority workers who see every issue through their tainted bias.

LLArms
470
Points
LLArms 07/29/13 - 09:30 am
13
2
And of course more blacks

And of course more blacks being behind bars has nothing to do with decisions they've made that put them behind bars.

No rather, it is the result (once again) of the evil white man forcing them to be criminals. Repent ye white devils!

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 07/29/13 - 09:42 am
0
0
If those welfare
Unpublished

black children would stay in the classroom instead of on da hood, they'd have a better chance of not being behind bars. The naacp, sclc, eeoc, rainbow coalition, doj, obama, holder and jealous are more interested in putting negroes on a pedastal than teaching them to be law abiding citizens.

deestafford
27412
Points
deestafford 07/29/13 - 10:08 am
12
1
I read an interesting column the other day on American

Thinker by someone who had closed his business in Detroit because of all the burdens placed on the employer in the form of unemployment insurance, workman's compensation, and civil rights commissions of the city. He talked about how he was actually having to pay for two salaries for every one person he had working in the business because of the workman comp and civil rights claims. He said that was the main thing that drove businesses out of Detroit---local regulations and policies.

I would bet not one person on the EEOC has ever run a business---excuse me for even thinking anyone in the obama administration had any business experience. I had a burst of rationale there for a split second.

Young Fred
17448
Points
Young Fred 07/29/13 - 10:27 am
9
1
Frankly I’m surprised that

Frankly I’m surprised that anyone is shocked over this.

That’s just what puffed up, self important bureaucrats do! Keep growing government, giving it more and more power and bureaucrats start getting cocky. They get creative, thinking of new and improved ways to expand their power, not caring a whit about the burdens they place on those that are actually productive members of society.

seenitB4
86692
Points
seenitB4 07/29/13 - 10:36 am
10
1
The ole saying is true

Hell if you do & hell if you don't.

Background checks have saved lives, according to Olens. And so, failing to do them could open businesses to lawsuits from the victims of any new crimes by an employee with a criminal record, he said.

Next we will see employers jailed for NOT hiring convicted felons......this is America turned upside down.

Darby
25496
Points
Darby 07/29/13 - 10:56 am
12
1
"However, advocacy groups say ex-cons

deserve a second chance"

.
I'll buy that in some cases. As long as that chance is not mandated by government regulation. No one is "entitled" to a job because of his skin color or because some government bureaucrat says so.

Where is the advocacy group that will speak for those in need of work who HAVE NOT broken the law?

When every single person who has not violated a criminal statute has a job, then we'll talk.

BamaMan
2339
Points
BamaMan 07/29/13 - 11:22 am
8
1
records

Except for needing records for repeat criminals, JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK CRIMINAL RECORDS ARE KEPT FOR? And is the EEOC hiring criminals themselves?

bentman
455
Points
bentman 07/29/13 - 11:28 am
6
1
a novel idea

How about behaving in such a way that you don't the law. Then you don't have to worry about having a felony on your record.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
7621
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 07/29/13 - 11:57 am
8
2
EEOC a JOKE

Several years ago a young lady became pregnant while working at a large institution in Augusta. She was fired because they said she would not be able to do her job while pregnant. No more excuse than that. A visit to the local EEOC office and she was told not to bother them. She is a white female. That same year there was a lot of publicity about a different female being reinstated to her job at the same location because she had been discriminated against and she received all of her backpay. Can you guess what the difference was??? Even the EEOC Discriminates!!

Teacup5560
45
Points
Teacup5560 07/29/13 - 12:04 pm
4
10
Unforgiving

The EEOC has been around forever and they are doing their job. When people go to prison and serve their time, are you saying they do not deserve a second chance. Yes, the crime they committed should be looked at but just because you have criminal record is not fair. How can you sit in church on Sunday and talk like this. How many times have you messed up and then say oh Lord forgive me. Always remember that sin in the eyes of God it all weigh the same. You can eat to much or kill somebody sin is sin.

pantherluvcik
628
Points
pantherluvcik 07/29/13 - 12:07 pm
4
5
We exist in a society where

We exist in a society where people unfortunately make bad choices. If we were perfect I would agree when people make comments that say if you never break the law you wouldn't have that problem. Some people posting here probably break the law in some form and never get caught. I hate that it comes down to these agencies having to monitor and regulate ethical bahaviors, but it is sometimes necessary. I believe that all people that serve their time and make an effort to be productive members of society should be allowed to. I also agree that there are cases when they shouldn't be allowed to work in certain jobs such as daycares and schools. But the crime and individual should dictate whether they are able to get the job. People do change when given a chance to, but if illegal activity is the only way they can survive when society doesn't give them the opportunity for a better way. Answer this "How many of you would starve rather than do what you have to for food and shelter?" I'd rather they work than break into my house to feed their familes.

Young Fred
17448
Points
Young Fred 07/29/13 - 01:03 pm
10
1
Teacup and Panther, You both

Teacup and Panther,

You both make valid points.

BUT there is one very important thing you may not have considered. If I decide I don't want an ex convict working for me, it is none of the governments business!!!

This is yet another instance of gov't overstepping (or should I say goose stepping?) its boundaries.

InChristLove
22472
Points
InChristLove 07/29/13 - 01:29 pm
6
2
Teacup, sadly we are not

Teacup, sadly we are not governed by God's law but by MAN's. Because we live in the world and not of the world we have to follow the laws of man....so Christians may extend a helping hand to those who truly wish to change their ways but you can not blame society for being a little apprehensive in hiring those who have shown they do not respect authority or rules.

Teacup5560
45
Points
Teacup5560 07/29/13 - 02:47 pm
3
4
Man's Law

I agree we do live by man's law but after you do your time, (paying your debt to society) at what point do you say this person deserves a second chance at life or should we just sentence them to life without parole from the start.

oldredneckman96
5095
Points
oldredneckman96 07/29/13 - 03:00 pm
8
2
Background Checks
Unpublished

Do we want convicted child molesters working in day care?
How about a pot head for bus driver?
Is it the best idea to have a career criminal on the police force?

This can go on and on, but there is no need to stop checking, What about a person with no criminal record, but just wants to work as a Doctor in the ER, what about his training records? Don't you want to see if the carpenter you want to replace the trim on your house to have a good reputation?

Vote people, vote this is just more Obama crap with more to come.

Teacup5560
45
Points
Teacup5560 07/29/13 - 04:41 pm
1
5
History Lesson

The EEOC has been around since 1964 and they are doing their job. This was President Johnson's thing.

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 07/29/13 - 05:37 pm
7
1
"This was President Johnson's
Unpublished

"This was President Johnson's thing."
teacup, thanks for explaining why it is so screwed up. All part of the Great Society. it has been great has it not.

gargoyle
16749
Points
gargoyle 07/29/13 - 07:59 pm
4
1
The EEOC should start at the

The EEOC should start at the top finding out if anyone would be denied a Whitehouse staff job for a silly little mistake like a felony, what about secret service ? Now how about congress passing a bill that a business can't be held libel for a employees actions, can you see the president signing that bill ? No one is saying that once a convict served their time that they should not be hirable but that decision needs to be left up to businesses since they bear the liability. I wish it were different but mistakes close employment doors to the future

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 07/29/13 - 08:24 pm
4
2
Past behaviour

... is the most accurate predictor of future action. It's kinda why the government keeps records, and not just on non-criminals.

corgimom
32145
Points
corgimom 07/29/13 - 10:30 pm
4
2
And then there's the City of

And then there's the City of Augusta, who likes nothing better than to hire convicted felons.

specsta
6505
Points
specsta 07/30/13 - 01:55 am
4
4
Second Chances

If a convict has served their time for a crime committed, that should be the end of the discussion.

Just because a person has made a mistake worthy of jail/prison time, it doesn't mean that their life after being released should be one of poverty, homelessness and unemployment.

Also, if I were to hire an ex-convict, you better believe that I would hire someone who had a simple drug offense, rather than some Wall Street scum who bilked thousands of people out of their life savings. The ridiculous thing is that the Wall Street crook probably served only a short time incarcerated (on the rare occasion when they are actually brought to justice) while the drug offender probably faced decades of imprisonment.

I also don't think employers should be able to use a credit rating in a hiring decision either. Most folks that need a job and have fallen on hard times don't have very good credit. How will they rebuild their credit if no one hires them?

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 07/30/13 - 05:48 am
7
2
"(paying your debt to

"(paying your debt to society)"

"Just because a person has made a MISTAKE worthy of jail/prison time."

I'm beginning to despise these liberal words games!! A "mistake"?? Kinda like Anthony Weiner's "mistake" sending pictures of himself to women?? When exactly do we call something, NOT a mistake? To liberals, EVERYTHING anyone (except republicans) does that gets them in trouble is a mistake!!

A mistake is burning the mircrowave popcorn because you left it in there too long. A mistake is hitting the front brakes on your bike, rather than the rear. A mistake is dropping your ring into the drain, while trying to clean it. A mistake IS NOT making a conscious decision to commit and planning out a crime!!!

And what is this "Paying your debt to society"? What exactly does this mean besides some liberal word to make criminals appear to have made things right? If you've been convicted of 6 burglaries and served 2 years in prison; have you paid your debt? So, because some liberal judge decided to smack you on the wrist and give you the lightest sentence possible, you've now "paid your debt"?

What if a person has been convicted 18 times, but was just released from his CURRENT prison sentence; has he paid his debt as well? You guys do realize the majority of prisoners are repeat offenders, right?

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 07/30/13 - 05:57 am
4
2
EEOC

Just another Racist Strong Arm of this racist administration!! This is absolutely PATHETIC!!! I know it's been going on for a while, but as with everything in THIS administration; it's on super steriods!! Obama takes programs that started under other administrations, and gives them HGH, Steriods and Methamphedamine, all at the same time!!

Now the EEOC has the ability to tell private companies who they can and can't hire, and it's getting worse!!

I think it's pretty simple; if I commit a felony go to prison, I realize when I get out, life is going to be really tough on me!! I don't come out believing people are flocking to hire me, as if I just graduated Harvard!! If I want to succeed, after I've made my "mistake" then I'm going to have to work EXTRA hard to prove myself!! So if THIS company won't hire me, maybe I find one that will and PROVE myself with them for a few years. THEN, maybe I can move up to bigger things!!

But WORKING your way up; isn't the liberal way!! Getting out of prison, unproven and forcing a company to hire you as the manager, appears to be the liberal way!!

Little Lamb
45819
Points
Little Lamb 07/30/13 - 08:04 am
3
2
Job Application

So, specsta (and presumably others) want a law that forbids background checks for criminal activity and credit rating for job applicants. Next will come prohibiting checks for high school diplomas and college degrees. At some point we'll have the government prohibiting face-to-face job interviews.

I've got the solution. Just have job applicants give their social security numbers to the federal job bank agency. All employers must get their workers from this agency. The agency will assign workers to the employers by a random selection process from the job bank.

pantherluvcik
628
Points
pantherluvcik 07/30/13 - 08:37 am
0
4
Nobody said they shouldn't

Nobody said they shouldn't check, it's just that they should consider the crime and the criminal and not exclude them strictly on the basis that they have a record.
Oh and by the way I left my lunch at home this morning, I wonder if that was Obama's fault too? Lets be serious people, every problem in the US is not Obama's fault.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs