The argument that background checks discriminate against criminals is one of the most lobbied complaints against the industry as a whole. Many say this type of discrimination is not too dissimilar from what plagued African-Americans before the Civil Rights Movement, woman before the 1920’s or any other ethnic, race, gender and/or age groups. The distinction that separates those types of discrimination and the exclusion of criminal offenders lies in one crucial fact; criminals choose to break the law, while those on the other side of the issue had no choice.
Definition of Discriminatory: making or showing an unfair or prejudicial distinction between different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
As you see above, the definition of discriminatory revolves around race, age, or sex and making an unfair prejudicial judgment or decision based off of those merits. None of this relates to an individual who willingly chooses to break the law. An applicant who is not hired due to the color of their skin was discriminated against and was treated unfairly. If an individual is not hired because he or she committed an assault with a deadly weapon two years, that is not an unfair judgment.
Employment background screening’s purpose within the hiring process is to show the employer the best view into an applicant’s character. Character, along with their qualifications, are the only fair ways to determine an applicant’s true merit when considering them for hire. If an individual shows a propensity to commit crimes that could endanger clients, staff and/or the organization itself, there is no reason why an employer should feel obligated to hire that applicant.
Despite the above statement, an applicant that has committed a minor crime seven years ago shouldn’t earn the same scrutiny as an individual who has committed assault. For instance, if an applicant was caught shoplifting when they were 16 years old and the record is rather old; there really is no reason to use that record as a reason not to hire the individual. The golden rule for background screening is that only when any criminal records conflict with the required job duties only then should they not be considered for employment.
Fair judgment is required when dealing with any applicant, but when an individual is dangerous and/or a threat to the continued smooth operations of a business is it unfair not to hire him/her? Past actions dictate future behavior and if an individual is already predisposed to committing dangerous behavior, it would be willful negligence to bring that applicant onboard.
Making the argument that not hiring an ex-criminal falls under the same category as ethnic, race, gender and gender related discrimination is simply an incorrect correlation. These criminal applicants who are barred from employment chose to make those mistakes and now must live with consequences of their actions. An employer has the right to choose who they employ, as long as their hiring decisions are not based off the color of one’s skin, ethnic history, gender and/or religious beliefs. Content of one’s character and qualifications must be the two main categories upon which an individual is judged. Ultimately and simply, extreme criminal histories point to a lack of character and their exclusion from employment is not and cannot be labeled discrimination.