(New York, NY) – The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) applauds the issuance of detailed guidelines by the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that makes it easier for those who have paid their debt to society to transition back into the workforce.  The new guidelines instruct employers to consider only important and relevant details about a candidate’s criminal background, such as the nature of the offense, age at time of conviction, and the extent of rehabilitation efforts, so that reasoned employment decisions can be made without compromising safety and security.  This is the first time in more than 20 years that the EEOC has updated its guidelines regarding employers’ use of criminal records to make hiring decisions.  With over 90% of employers reporting consideration of criminal records in a recent survey, these new guidelines are essential for ensuring that employers use only information that is pertinent to job performance.

The updated guidelines, which incorporate many of the recommendations offered by LDF during the EEOC’s public comment period, provides employers with a useful roadmap to design a fair and lawful criminal records policy.  The EEOC encourages employers to identify specific criminal offenses that demonstrate unfitness for the job in question, check criminal background information only after evaluating a candidate’s experience and qualifications, and provide candidates an opportunity to explain mitigating circumstances or correct inaccurate information.  

According to the federal government’s estimates, more than one out of every four adults has a criminal record.  The numbers are far higher for African Americans, who as a group are far less likely to have engaged in criminal activity, but are more likely to be unfairly targeted by the criminal justice system.  For example, a 2005 study found that African Americans represented 14% of current drug users, yet constituted 33.9% of persons arrested for drug offenses.  Thus, overly broad criminal records policies—including those that deny employment to anyone who has been arrested or convicted of any offense—prevent millions of otherwise qualified Americans from obtaining gainful employment.  The EEOC’s new guidelines make clear that such policies may also violate Title VII if they disproportionately exclude African-American jobseekers and are not job-related. 

“We salute the EEOC’s bipartisan effort to update its guidelines to ensure that employers are not unfairly excluding otherwise qualified applicants from the job market.  No one should be penalized for the rest of their life for mistakes that they made in the past.  Our whole nation benefits when we open up opportunities for people who are willing and able to become contributing members of our society,” said Debo Adegbile, LDF Acting President and Director-Counsel.

CONTACT:  Melissa Potter, (212) 965-2276, mpotter@naacpldf.org

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is America’s legal counsel on issues of race. Through advocacy and litigation, LDF focuses on issues of education, voter protection, economic justice and criminal justice. We encourage students to embark on careers in the public interest through scholarships and internship programs. LDF pursues racial justice to move our nation toward a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans.