The rise of the information age has made it increasingly easy and cost effective to conduct criminal background checks on prospective employees. According to Adams (2011), this ease of access is due to the fact that investigators no longer have to sift through actual court records. But does this type of discrimination actually do any good for a company, and what is the greater cost to society when so many companies are engaging the same type of discrimination?
Cost and Benefit
According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (2010), 73% of the companies surveyed conduct background checks on all prospective employees, and an additional 19% indicated that they conduct ...view middle of the document...
A consequence of the widespread use of pre-employment background checks is disproportionate discrimination against minority racial groups. Although it is illegal to deny a person an employment opportunity based on racial background under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the effective result of background checks is racial discrimination. According to Carson (2010):
Minorities are more likely to have criminal records than non-minorities, not because they tend to commit crimes more often than non-minorities, but because of racial profiling and other factors such as prosecutorial discretion, receiving jail time rather than bail, higher bails for similar charges, less advantageous proposals during plea bargaining, longer sentences, and higher receipt of the death penalty. (p.223-224)
When criminal records are most prevalent in specific racial groups, and most companies use a criminal record as a barrier to employment, it becomes clear that members of such racial groups are disproportionately denied employment based on a factor that does not accurately depict criminal behavior over that of other races.
To further compound the problems associated with background checks, evaluating a criminal record without placing weight on the age of the offense does not account for those that are likely to never offend again. Research by Blumstein and Nakamura (2009) concluded that the longer a first time offender does not reoffend, the less likely that person will ever offend again. According to the research by Blumstein and Nakamura (2009), people convicted of robbery are just as likely to commit another crime as the rest of the never convicted population if they do not reoffend within 7.7 years. For burglary convictions, 3.8 years was the average to consider an offender “redeemed”, and 4.3...