Here’s a question for you: Do you think that everyone should be given a fair shot at, and equal consideration for, landing a job?

That means everyone. Felons. Non-English speakers. People with disabilities. Elderly. Immigrants. Drug addicts. Muslims. Homosexuals. Sex offenders. Refugees. Women.

These sections of society are certainly not the same, nor should they be lumped, labeled or categorized together. But they are all protected classes when it comes to employment under United States law.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

What it comes down to is this:

  • You can’t be treated unfairly because of your race, sex, religion, genetic information, disability, color, national origin, or age
  • You can’t be harassed in your workplace because of these things
  • You can’t be denied reasonable workplace accommodation because of your religious beliefs or disability
  • You can’t be retaliated against if you complain about a violation of one of these things

Understandably, there is a lot of hulabaloo when it comes to following the letter of the law and doing due diligence in protecting your workplace. Specifically, businesses who rely on background checks to vet candidates can find themselves in precarious positions if they don’t understand or follow the guidance outlined by the EEOC.

Recently, the EEOC has worked hard to simplify this guidance and make it easily digestible to employers and employees. Collaborating with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), these agencies provided two documents that spell out exactly what’s ok and what’s not ok when it comes to understanding and abiding background screening regulations.

We’re going to tackle things from an employers perspective later this week. But first, we want to outline what is considered fair game when screening candidates and employees.

It’s not illegal to require a background check or ask you questions about your background. An employer might want to know your education history, employment timeline, criminal record, or your use of online social media. You should expect questions like these. However, an employer isn’t allowed to treat you any differently because of your background. For example, it would be discriminatory to reject all female applicants over age 40 but not reject male applicants over age 40. Click here to read a post with several examples of discriminatory behavior.

Employers also have a right to request a credit report and background check on you. If they’re using a third-party screening company like Active Screening, they need your written permission to proceed. If you choose not to sign on the dotted line, it’s OK for an employer to reject your application. But if an employer chooses not to hire you based on something red flagged in your report, you have a right to know. In fact, Adverse Action laws state that you must be given a copy of the report and contact information for the agency providing it. If you find the reporting agency made a mistake, you can ask them to correct it and then re-send the corrected copy to where you applied. If the information is accurate be prepared to explain the negative situation and why it won’t or shouldn’t affect your ability to do the job.

Have you ever undergone a background check? What was the experience like? Did it affect the outcome of your job application? We’d love to hear from you and share your story. Send an email here.

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