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EEOC changes offer more protection to former criminals

Job seekers in Dallas, Texas, and throughout the country may face difficulty finding employment if they have criminal convictions in their past. Luckily, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently updated its guidelines on the practice of criminal background checks by employers. The EEOC was concerned that these checks lead to employment discrimination against minority individuals who have higher rates of criminal convictions than whites.

The EEOC's new policy suggests that employers give job applicants the opportunity to explain past criminal arrests or convictions that come up in background checks. The EEOC also urges employers not to inquire about an applicant's previous convictions on job applications, especially when a person's criminal history has nothing to do with the job he or she hopes to get.

This new practice would make it easier for ex-convicts recently released from prison to find gainful employment. The NAACP commented that there is no reason for employers to discriminate against individuals who have already served time for their mistakes, and the new guidelines will help ex-convicts on their road to complete rehabilitation.

Not all employers are happy with the EEOC's changes. Some employers argue that the new guidelines will make the hiring process more burdensome and expensive, and that applicants are asked about their criminal backgrounds as a way to keep employees and customers safe.

The EEOC's policy change applies nationwide to both the private and government sectors. The guidelines will likely have a large impact on the Dallas area, where non-whites make up a significant percentage of both the general population and the ex-criminal population. Dallas is also the home of many federal government entities, which look to area residents to fulfill their workforce needs.

With the new recommendations, Dallas employers may find it more difficult to disqualify job applicants due to their criminal histories. But this will not make employment discrimination disappear. A qualified employment discrimination attorney may help guarantee fair treatment to anyone who has been the victim of workplace discrimination.

Source: Huffington Post, Updated EEOC Guidelines Make It Harder For Employers To Discriminate Against Former Criminals, Sam Hananel, April 25, 2012

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