Federal court tosses EEOC suit over background checks

Last year, the EEOC issued guidance to employers about the use of background checks, cautioning that the agency was keeping a close eye on the issue. Multiple suits followed, including two highly publicized cases filed in June, alleging that employers violated Title VII because the background checks had a disparate impact on African-American employees and were therefore an unlawful employment practice.

But in ruling on a third suit making similar allegations filed by the agency, U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Titus cast serious doubt about the agency’s theory of liability and expressed concern about employers faced with the choice of hiring a potential criminal or conducting a check and facing a lawsuit from the EEOC.

“By bringing actions of this nature, the EEOC has placed many employers in the ‘Hobson’s choice’ of ignoring criminal history and credit background, thus exposing themselves to potential liability for criminal and fraudulent acts committed by employees, on the one hand, or incurring the wrath of the EEOC for having utilized information deemed fundamental by most employers,” he wrote. 


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