EEOC Guidance on Background Checks

The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. In recent years, the EEOC has focused on ensuring that employers do not use background checks in a way that has a disparate impact on certain protected groups.

The EEOC has issued guidance for employers on how to conduct background checks without violating anti-discrimination laws. Some key points from this guidance include:

  1. Use of Criminal Records: Employers should be cautious when considering criminal records in making employment decisions. The EEOC recommends that employers consider the nature of the offense, the time elapsed since the offense or completion of the sentence, and the nature of the job in question.

  2. Individualized Assessment: Employers should conduct an individualized assessment of each applicant or employee before making a decision based on a criminal record. For example, employers should not use a policy or practice that excludes people with certain criminal records if the policy or practice significantly disadvantages individuals of a particular race, national origin, or another protected characteristic, and does not accurately predict who will be a responsible, reliable, or safe employee.

  3. Avoiding Blanket Exclusions: Employers should avoid blanket exclusions of applicants or employees with criminal records. Instead, they should consider whether the specific offense or conduct is relevant to the job in question. To do so, best practices recommendation is to include a hiring matrix when making these decisions.

Overall, the EEOC guidance emphasizes the importance of fairness and individualized assessment in the use of background checks in employment decisions. Employers should carefully consider EEOC guidance and work with legal counsel to ensure that their background check policies and procedures comply with anti-discrimination laws.

Any personnel or employment records you make or keep (including all application forms, regardless of whether the applicant was hired, and other records related to hiring) must be preserved for one year after the records were made, or after a personnel action was taken, whichever comes later.

To find out more about federal anti-discrimination laws, visit

California’s Clean Slate Law

Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Background Checks – Myth vs. Fact


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