Implicit Bias, Criminal Histories, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Imagine you have two candidates in the final running for a position at your company. One is a woman. One is a man. They are of different ethnicities. Both are perfectly qualified. They have the same college degrees and equal years of work experience, too. They both are eager to join your team and you know this because they both sent very nice “thank you” emails after their interviews. Your office is in a large metropolitan area known for traffic headaches and both of your candidates just happen to live within 2 miles of the office. How convenient! And both candidates are happy with the salary range being offered for the position. In fact, they are both so ideal, that you send them through for background screens with the thought that you could hire both!

 

Oddly enough, both background screens come back with very similar results. Both candidates have criminal records­—it appears they were convicted of the exact same misdemeanor charge during their college years. That’s the only thing on each of their records, but you feel a change in your gut about hiring both, and you decide to make an offer to just one of them.

 

How has this imaginary scenario played out in your mind? Who did you picture as the two candidates? Which one did you hire?

 

The EEOC Makes Sure Hiring Managers Choose Well

 

Why did you choose that candidate over the other one when absolutely everything about them was the same…except for gender and race?

 

When it comes to hiring, we all know some managers blatantly make choices to reinforce racist, sexist, or other discriminatory beliefs. But we may also make choices completely unaware of our biases and how they inadvertently reinforce discrimination. This is where Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission step in to protect job applicants and employees in the face of blatant and inadvertent discrimination.

 

Though the Civil Rights Act had been in effect for nearly 50 years, in 2012, the EEOC issued enforcement guidelines to clarify how the Civil Rights Act specifically protects job applicants and employees who have criminal histories saying, “Title VII prohibits employers from treating job applicants with the same criminal records differently because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin…” even when the exclusions are applied uniformly. Because it can be easy to believe our choices are based on safety and security when they’re actually based on our biases…could you be in trouble for who you chose to hire in the scenario above?

 

Protecting Your Business from EEOC Violations

 

Awareness, education, and training may do the most work in combatting discrimination in hiring. And if you’d like to know what your implicit biases are, Harvard University’s Project Implicit offers short, online self-tests that may open your eyes to the subconscious judgments you’re making about your fellow humans’ weight, gender, religion, etc., even when all of the facts presented about them are equal.

 

That’s why you need to make sure you’re starting out your hiring process by getting solid facts via thorough background screens on your job applicants and employees. ClearStar helps ensure your company is providing a level playing field for your employees.

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