EEOC Criminal Records Guidance 'critical tool to assist employers,' attorney says

By Russell Boniface | Aug 22, 2017

LUBBOCK – The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) and the National Employment Law Project have filed a motion to intervene in a case by the State of Texas against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) involving criminal records guidance.

The appendix to memorandum in support of motion to intervene was filed in the Lubbock Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on Aug. 2.

In Texas v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the State of Texas filed suit in 2013 against the EEOC over its 2012 guidance that prohibits employment discrimination based on conviction and arrest records under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The state of Texas seeks the authority for its employers to deny jobs to applicants based on a criminal conviction.

If the court grants the motion, two new defendants would join the case to defend the 2012 EEOC guidance.

The first new defendant to the case would be Beverly Harrison, a 61-year-old African-American woman who retired from the her employment with the city of Dallas in 2009 after nearly 30 years of service. In 2013, Harrison applied for a position with Dallas County Schools as a school crossing guard. After eight days on the job, Harrison was terminated a based on a felony assault in 1975 at age 19, for which she was sentenced to five years of probation but satisfied after two years.

The Texas State Conference of the NAACP would be the second new defendant and would join the case to further its mission of advancing the rights of the formerly incarcerated through affirmative litigation under Title VII.

“Far too many Americans, disproportionately black and Latino, are unfairly and unjustly denied jobs based on mistakes that they made decades ago and that are unrelated to the job at hand,” said Leah Aden, LDF senior counsel, in a recent press release. “The EEOC’s guidance is a critical tool to assist employers with how to use criminal history information in a responsible and nondiscriminatory manner that is both fair to workers and safe for the public.”

The guidance advises employers to individually assess the nature of the person’s offense, how much time has passed since the offense, and whether the offense is related to the job sought.

“The EEOC guidance plays a critical role in educating employers and the public about how improperly screening out workers with records violates anti-discrimination law,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit advocating for low-wage and unemployed workers, in a press release.

“At the core of the Guidance is a commitment to thoughtfulness and reasonableness when it comes to reintegrating people with records - disproportionately individuals of color - into the workforce, which ultimately benefits all of us,” Owens said in the release.

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