Over the past couple months the background screening industry has been buzzing about the new EEOC Strategic Plan which has placed employers on alert that they better have sound policies on the use of criminal records to deny employment. The intent is that employers use of criminal background checks is disenfranchising too many people and there should be limits on the use of criminal records. I have said for more than a year that this debate has been very one-sided. The only voices we hear are from those who work with ex-offenders or researchers tucked away in ivory towers working with numbers, not people.
Do I believe that employers have an obligation to be good stewards in the use of criminal record checks? Absolutely. We have always provided training and consulting to our partners on the proper use of employment background checks.
This should be a balanced debate. People’s lives are at stake.
A recent lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, VA illustrates how critically important it is to not abandon the use of criminal background checks. A female employee of Cosmetic Essence was walking to her car after working a late shift and was attacked by a co-worker, a convicted sex offender. Nathan Seymore Martin was charged AND convicted of sexual penetration with an animate object.
The victim is suing for $6.3 million. She claims that Cosmetic Essence is culpable because her attacker was a convicted sex offender and had they conducted employment background checks they would have known this.
But they didn’t.
We have to understand that this is not about money. I have never met the victim, but having worked with thousands of victims and victims of crime organizations, I can guarantee you that the victim would give any money she receives to be able to turn back the clock and avoid being brutally raped. No amount of money will wipe away the violence.
The current movement in this country is to quiet the voice of victims. To dehumanize the process. Make it all about statistics instead of moms, dads, sisters and brothers.
And how will this impact Martin? He is already a convicted sex offender so he is on the sex offender registry. Yes, he will serve a little time. Probably very little as his sentence was 3 years. Which means he will be out of prison in about 1 year. No joke. Most states allow inmates to earn “good time” which often equates to 2 days of good time for each day served.
So in 12-18 months Martin will step out of prison into an employment world that wants to identify him as a protected class.
But the victim receives a life sentence. She will be spend a lifetime coming to grips with being brutally and violently raped. She will navigate a new world where her sense of safety and security has been destroyed. Her thoughts and choices will be driven by her emotional scars.
And what drives me crazy is it was preventable. A background check would have stopped this.
Does that mean Martin would have never harmed anyone else? No, I am not saying that.
I am saying he would not have harmed this victim at work. What we should do with violent sex offenders is a different article.
So the challenge for employers is to provide a safe work environment while at the same time not discriminating against a candidate.
Join us for a FREE webinar: EEOC Strategic Plan and Legally Defensible Criminal Background Checks on June 8, 2012 at 2PM EST.