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National Employment Law Project 65 Million Need Not Apply the Case for Crimnal Background Check Reform 2011

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Michelle Natividad Rodriguez | Maurice Emsellem
The National Employment Law Project
March 2011


Table of Contents
1.	 Introduction ................................................................................................................................................................................................. 1
2.	 Shutting Workers with Criminal Records Out of the Job Market Compromises the................................. 3
Economy and Public Safety
3.	 Overbroad Hiring Restrictions Run Afoul of Federal Laws Regulating Criminal........................................ 5
Background Checks for Employment
4.	 Wave of Lawsuits Documents Routine Civil Rights and Consumer Protection Violations................... 9
5.	 Craigslist Survey Reveals Flagrant Abuses by Nation’s Largest Companies................................................. 13
6.	 Recommendations ................................................................................................................................................................................ 19

Endnotes . .................................................................................................................................................................................................... 27

Michelle Natividad Rodriguez
Maurice Emsellem
This report was made possible with the generous support of the Open Society Institute, the Public
Welfare Foundation, and the Rosenberg Foundation. NELP is a non-profit research and advocacy
organization that partners with local communities to secure the promise of economic opportunity
for today’s workers. This paper is the product of NELP’s Second Chance Labor Project, which
promotes the employment rights of people with criminal records and fairer and more accurate
criminal background checks for employment.
The authors are grateful to Séla Steiger, the research assistant who patiently and skillfully gathered
the Craigslist postings featured in this report, as well as to our NELP colleagues Madeline Neighly,
Chris Owens, and Norman Eng, who contributed their valuable expertise and vision to this project.

1	 Introduction
In recent years, the criminal background check industry has grown
exponentially. Particularly in the wake of 9/11, the ready availability of
inexpensive commercial background checks has made them a popular
employee screening tool. In one survey, more than 90 percent of companies
reported using criminal background checks for their hiring decisions.1 At the
same time that the background check industry has expanded, the share of the
U.S. population with criminal records has soared to over one in four adults.
In the right situations, criminal background checks promote safety
and security at the workplace. However, imposing a background
check that denies any type of employment for people with
criminal records is not only unreasonable, but it can also be illegal
under civil rights laws. Employers that adopt these and other
blanket exclusions fail to take into account critical information,
including the nature of an offense, the age of the offense, or even
its relationship to the job.
Yet, as this report documents, based on a survey of online job ads
posted on Craigslist, major companies as well as smaller employers
routinely deny people with criminal records any opportunity to
establish their job qualifications. For any number of entry-level jobs,
ranging from warehouse workers to delivery drivers to sales clerks,
employers and staffing agencies post these and other job ads that
unambiguously close the doors on applicants with criminal records:

“You must not


have any felony
or misdemeanor
convictions on
your record.

“No Exceptions! . . . No Misdemeanors and/or Felonies of
any type ever in background,”
“You must not have any felony or misdemeanor
convictions on your record. Period.”
Even some of the nation’s largest companies have imposed
overbroad background check requirements, including Bank of

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment




Bank of America


Let's Build Something Together"



America (283,000 employees worldwide), Aramark (250,000 employees
worldwide), Lowe’s (approximately 238,000 employees), Accenture
(180,000 employees), Domino’s Pizza (170,000 employees worldwide),
Adecco USA (70,000 staff on assignment), Burlington Northern Santa Fe
Railroad Co. (BNSF) (38,000 employees, not including contractors
working on its railroad facilities), RadioShack (35,000 employees), and
Omni Hotel (11,000 employees in North America).
Across the nation there is a consistent theme: people with criminal
records “need not apply” for available jobs. Combine today’s tight job
market, the upsurge in background checks, and the growing number of
people with criminal records, and the results are untenable. In the end,
workers are not the only ones who suffer. Employers are also
disadvantaged as blanket hiring restrictions undermine the integrity of
criminal background checks and artificially limit the employers’ pool of
qualified candidates.
While this report explores the exclusion of people with criminal records
from work, which severely impacts communities of color, it also reveals
a promising shift in policy and practice. Indeed, this is an opportune
moment to capitalize on a recent wave of impact litigation and model
state and local reforms to develop fairer and more accurate criminal
background checks for employment.
If adopted, the following reforms featured in this report would
significantly advance the employment rights of people with criminal
records and promote safety and security at the workplace:







The federal government should aggressively enforce civil rights and
consumer protections that apply to criminal background checks for
employment in the public and private sectors.


The federal government should adopt fair hiring policies regulating
federal employment and contracting that serve as a model for all


State and local governments should certify that their hiring policies
fully comply with federal civil rights standards and launch employer
outreach and education campaigns.


The employer community, together with Craigslist, should play a
leadership role in raising the profile of this critical issue and
promoting best practices that properly balance the mutual interest
of workers and employers in fairer and more accurate criminal
background checks for employment.

2	 Shutting Workers with Criminal Records
Out of the Job Market Compromises the
Economy and Public Safety

American workers are treading water in the worst labor market since the
Great Depression. To keep afloat, U.S. workers need strong policies and
protections to support their ability to find work—their lifeline to economic
and social stability. Yet an estimated 65 million U.S. adults who have criminal
records often confront barriers that prevent even the most qualified from
securing employment.2
For many companies, criminal background checks are a means to
determine the safety and security risk a prospective or current
employee poses on the job.3 Yet even the assumption that the
existence of a criminal record accurately predicts negative work
behavior is subject to some debate; one limited study questions
whether the two are, in fact, empirically related.4 The irony is that
employers’ attempts to safeguard the workplace are not only
barring many people who pose little to no risk,5 but they also are
compromising public safety. As studies have shown, providing
individuals the opportunity for stable employment actually
lowers crime recidivism rates and thus increases public safety.6
Not only is it a matter of public safety to ensure that all workers
have job opportunities, but it is also critical for the struggling
economy. No healthy economy can sustain such a large and
growing population of unemployable workers, especially in those
communities already hard hit by joblessness. Indeed, the impact
on the economy is staggering. The cost of corrections at each level
of government has increased 660 percent from 1982 to 2006,
consuming $68 billion a year,7 and the reduced output of goods
and services of people with felonies and prison records is
estimated at between $57 and $65 billion in losses.8

Sixty-five million U.S. adults, over one
in four adults, have a criminal record.

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


Johnny Magee | Livermore, California
Garden Center Attendant at Lowe’s
In September 1999, 40-year-old Johnny Magee, who is developmentally disabled, picked up a
package for his uncle that, unknown to him, contained drugs. Johnny was arrested and convicted
of misdemeanor conspiracy to commit a drug offense. He had never used drugs and has never
been convicted of any other offense. Johnny held a landscaping job at the Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory for six years until budget cuts forced him to look for a new job in 2008. He
applied to Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Dublin, California, for a garden center attendant
position. Despite his related prior work experience, Lowe’s refused to hire Johnny because of his
conviction. “Lowe’s policy is unfair to me and lots of other good people,” said Johnny. “It’s unfair
because they only see something that happened to me many years ago, even though I’ve never
been in trouble since.” Later in 2008, Johnny petitioned the court for a dismissal of his conviction.
It was granted and his “finding of guilt . . . [was] set aside.”107 In 2009, Johnny filed Title VII charges
with the EEOC against Lowe’s.108

The concurrent losses to the individual are devastating. A person’s
interaction with the criminal justice system extends beyond what may
be a minor arrest or conviction to a lifetime of social and economic
disadvantage. One prominent researcher has found that a criminal
record reduces the likelihood of a job callback or offer by nearly 50
percent, an effect even more pronounced for African American men
than for white men.9 Not surprisingly, the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recognized that employer reliance
on proxies for race—such as having a criminal record—is “an important
civil rights issue.”10
Although greatly impacted by arrest and conviction records, people of
color are not the only ones burdened with the indelible mark of a
criminal record. The reality that over one in four U.S. adults has a
criminal record brings this issue and its public safety and economic
consequences to the doorstep of every home in America. As U.S.
Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis recently stated, “Stable employment
helps ex-offenders stay out of the legal system. Focusing on that end is
the right thing to do for these individuals, and it makes sense for local
communities and our economy as a whole.”11


3	 Overbroad Hiring Restrictions Run Afoul
of Federal Laws Regulating Criminal
Background Checks for Employment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in
employment based on race, gender, national origin, and other protected
categories.12 Enforced by the EEOC, Title VII has long been recognized as
prohibiting not only overt, intentional discrimination, but also disallowing
those facially neutral policies and practices that have a disproportionate
impact on certain groups. Using arrest and conviction records to screen for
employment is an example of the kind of “neutral” selection criteria that
invites Title VII scrutiny.

The EEOC’s policy guidance on conviction records, issued in 1987,
recognized that barring people from employment based on their
criminal records disproportionately excludes African Americans
and Latinos because they are overrepresented in the criminal
justice system.13 For example, African Americans account for 28.3
percent of all arrests in the United States,14 although they
represent just 12.9 percent of the population; that arrest rate is
more than double their share of the population.15 In contrast, the
arrest rate for whites actually falls below their share.16
Screening out job applicants with criminal records thus excludes a
much larger share of African American candidates. Hence, as the
EEOC guidance makes clear, such a policy has a “disparate impact”
on African Americans (and Latinos). The disparate impact approach
ensures that practices that appear to be “race-neutral” on their
face—such as no-hire policies against people with criminal records—
are prohibited. Just as it is unlawful and immoral to refuse to hire
someone because of skin color, it is also a violation of Title VII for
an employer to use non-job-related selection criteria that have the
effect of differentiating along racial lines.

The number one
represents when
the arrest rate of
a racial category
is equal to its
population share.



The share of African Americans
arrested is 2.2 times their portion of
the population, while the percentage
of whites arrested falls below their
corresponding population share.

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


Definitively establishing when criminal background checks for
employment cross the line, the EEOC has stated that “an absolute bar
to employment based on the mere fact that an individual has a
conviction record is unlawful under Title VII.”17 Thus, blanket hiring
prohibitions of the type documented in this report violate this
fundamental mandate. Yet Title VII does not wholly bar the use of
criminal records in employment decisions. Instead, the EEOC has
provided a strong and clear framework for assessing criminal records
when making an employment decision. An employer’s consideration of
criminal records may pass muster under Title VII if an individualized
assessment is made taking into account:


1.	 The nature and gravity of the offense or offenses;
2.	 The time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of
the sentence; and


3.	 The nature of the job held or sought.18

Years Since
First Felony






Type of Felony Arrest
Aggravated Assault
A major study found that 18-year-olds
who were arrested had the same risk
of being arrested as someone with no
record after 3.8 years had passed
since a burglary arrest, 4.3 years for
aggravated assault, and 7.7 years for


The EEOC’s case-by-case approach ensures that people with criminal
records are not barred from employment for youthful indiscretions,
minor run-ins with the law, or more serious offenses from the distant
past. Although the EEOC developed this framework more than 20 years
ago, subsequent research has underscored its wisdom.
Buttressing one of the core EEOC factors regulating the use of criminal
background checks, research indicates that lifetime employment bans
on people with criminal records are not correlated to risk. For example,
a major study of people with felony convictions found that 18-year-olds
arrested for burglary had the same risk of being arrested as same-aged
individuals with no record after 3.8 years had passed since the first
arrest (for aggravated assault it was 4.3 years, and for robbery it was 7.7
years).19 If the individual was arrested initially for robbery at age 20
instead of at age 18, then it takes the person three fewer years to have
the same arrest rate as a non-offender.20 Notably, those individuals
convicted of property crimes are especially likely to stay clear of the
criminal justice system compared to other offenders.
This groundbreaking research has major implications for how
employers evaluate the criminal records of workers. Professor Alfred
Blumstein, one of the nation’s leading criminologists, and his colleague
Kiminori Nakamura, conclude that within a narrow period of time, an
individual’s “criminal record empirically may be shown to be irrelevant
as a factor in a hiring decision.”21 Furthermore, these studies evaluate

the risk of committing an offense without distinguishing whether it
took place on the job or if it was job-related. The probability of
committing an offense at the workplace, which is a significantly smaller
subset of offenses, would likely be even more remote.
A criminal record alone is an inadequate measure of an individual’s risk
of creating a safety or security threat for other reasons as well. A record
may include a wide swath of misleading information; not only is a
criminal record difficult to interpret, it may include arrests that were
dropped because of factual innocence. Even worse, commercially
prepared background checks have been found to be rife with
inaccuracies.22 FBI background checks, which one would expect to have
a higher level of accuracy, are shockingly out of date 50 percent of the
time, thus routinely failing to reflect whether an arrest actually led to a
conviction.23 The bottom line is that a criminal record can be a blunt,
misleading tool to determine whether a worker poses a risk on the job.

“an absolute bar
to employment
based on the
mere fact that an
individual has a
conviction record
is unlawful under
Title VII.”

Illegality and inaccuracy aside, the consequences to job seekers when
employers refuse to hire most people with criminal records cannot be
overstated. As the former acting chair of the EEOC explained:
Fears, myths and such stereotypes and biases against those with
criminal records continue to be part of the . . . decision making
for many employers. Business and industry suffers as a result
because it is not able to benefit fully from the skills of every
potential worker. For our economy to be successful, we cannot
afford to waste any available talent.24

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment



4	 Wave of Lawsuits Documents Routine 	
Civil Rights and Consumer Protection

After years of dormancy, the basic civil rights and consumer protection laws
restricting the use of criminal records are catching a second wind. In just the
past few years, private lawyers, public interest and civil rights groups, and
government agencies have initiated lawsuits challenging exclusionary
practices. Reflecting a trend that is expected to continue, at least five major
civil rights lawsuits against large employers were filed in 2010 alone.
The lawsuits include Arroyo v. Accenture, which alleges that
Accenture “rejects job applicants and terminates employees with
criminal records, even where the criminal history . . . has no
bearing on the . . . fitness or ability to perform the job.”25
Accenture, a global business and technology consulting company,
has more than 180,000 employees in the United States26 and
netted $21.55 billion last year.27 Another major federal lawsuit,
Hudson v. First Transit, Inc., charges that First Transit, one of the
nation’s largest transit service providers with 15,500 employees,
has a blanket policy prohibiting individuals from working for the
company if they have been convicted of a felony or served so
much as a day in jail.28
In Mays v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Co. (BNSF),
BNSF was sued over its “blanket policy prohibiting any person
with a felony conviction in the previous [seven] years from being
employed at its facilities.”29 BNSF, like most major railways, has
been using the commercially run e-RAILSAFE program, which
provides periodic background checks on the nation’s railroad
employees.30 This case also has the potential to impact tens of
thousands of workers. BNSF alone has 38,000 employees, not
including the contractors working on its railroad facilities.31

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment





candidates must
be able to pass:
Check (no
felonies or

est fir
an ec
ket st

by V


misdemeanors) . . .”
(Bank of America)



r- T(

Private employers are not the only ones coming under fire for their
discriminatory policies. In the class action lawsuit Johnson, et al. v.
Locke,32 the U.S. Census Bureau was sued under Title VII for
discriminating against people with criminal records by excluding them
from consideration for temporary positions with the Census.33 The job
applicants’ complaint states that “roughly 700,000 people” were
eliminated by Census’ screening practice, thus “import[ing] acute racial
and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system into the
employment process.”34
The EEOC also has a Title VII criminal records suit pending against the
Freeman Companies,35 a convention and corporate events marketing
company accused of rejecting job applicants based on criminal
background records and credit histories.36 In a press release about the
lawsuit, the EEOC warned that “[e]mployers . . . should be careful to avoid
hiring practices that have unlawful discriminatory effects on workers.”37
In addition to these recent federal lawsuits, workers across the country
have filed numerous charges with the EEOC challenging employers’ use
of criminal records. Although national data is unavailable from the
EEOC, two non-profit organizations—NELP and Community Legal
Services of Philadelphia—have filed more than a dozen EEOC charges
that are pending against national employers,38 such as Lowe’s
(approximately 238,000 employees)39 and Select Truckers Plus.40
The EEOC may also initiate investigations under a special procedure
known as a “commissioner’s charge.” In 2009, NELP and other
organizations petitioned the EEOC to file a commissioner’s charge
against Bank of America, which reported $2.4 trillion in assets and
approximately 283,000 employees worldwide,41 and Manpower, which is
one of the nation’s largest staffing agencies.42 The petition called
attention to the job announcement circulated by Manpower and Bank
of America broadly prohibiting workers with criminal records from
applying for 600 clerical positions in 2009.43 The job announcement
distributed by the federally-funded One Stop Career Center in the San
Francisco Bay Area stated:
“Qualified candidates must be able to pass: Background Check
(no felonies or misdemeanors) . . .” (emphasis added).
In 2009, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (now Governor
Cuomo) entered the fray by enforcing state protections that regulate
criminal background checks for employment.44 The Office of the
Attorney General (OAG) has reached major settlements against three


companies and a private screening firm—agreements that serve as
models for background check policies and procedures.
Beginning in November 2008, the OAG investigated the national
electronic store chain, RadioShack, and the background check company,
ChoicePoint. RadioShack is the second-largest retailer of consumer
electronics in the United States, employing approximately 35,000
employees.45 The OAG found that RadioShack automatically rejected
any individual who answered “yes” to the question, “Have you been
convicted of a felony in the past 7 years,” by not allowing the individual
to complete the job application.46
ChoicePoint, which accounts for an estimated 20 percent of the U.S.
background check industry conducting more than 10 million annually,47
played an integral role in designing and implementing RadioShack’s
unlawful practices. It created an online application system that
automatically dismissed anyone who self-disclosed a criminal record
history.48 ChoicePoint also conducted background checks for
RadioShack that reported sealed and dismissed convictions, in violation
of state law.49
In another settlement finalized in 2010, the OAG found that ChoicePoint
had developed a matrix that rated applicants based on their criminal
records for ABM Industries, one of the largest facilities services
contractors in the United States with over 90,000 employees
nationwide.50 ABM Industries obtained background checks that
reported dismissed charges and infractions, in violation of state law.51

“All Applicants
must have a
FULLY clean
background for
the past seven
(7) years.”

In 2009 the OAG also entered into a settlement with Aramark, one of
the largest food service providers in the United States with 250,000
employees worldwide.52 Aramark’s job announcement for temporary
janitorial and food-service personnel stated:
“All Applicants must have a FULLY clean background for the
past seven (7) years.” (emphasis added).
The OAG’s model settlements with RadioShack, ChoicePoint, ABM
Industries, and Aramark are structured for lasting change, including
components of policy reform, training of employees, and ongoing
independent compliance monitoring.53
In addition to this growing list of civil rights lawsuits and EEOC charges,
workers have also taken employers and background check companies
to court to enforce the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). FCRA
regulates the commercially prepared background reports used by most
65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


Darrell Langdon | Chicago, Illinois
Boiler Room Engineer in Chicago Public Schools
Like many, Darrell Langdon struggled with addiction in his youth. Now 52 and having raised two
sons as a single father, Darrell, through his strength of character, has been sober for over twenty
years. Although he has moved forward in life through hard-won rehabilitation, his 25-year-old
felony conviction for possession of cocaine remains.
Darrell worked as a boiler room fireman in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) until 1995 and then
as a mortgage broker until 2008. After the market crash, Darrell reapplied to CPS to return to his
roots as a boiler room engineer, his father’s career. With his excellent qualifications, he was hired
pending a background check. But the decades-old conviction proved to be the mark against him.
Not giving up, he was granted a “certificate of good conduct” by the court. Even with this
certificate, which legally lifted the barrier to employment, CPS again rejected him. It took media
scrutiny and legal support, but CPS finally reconsidered. Darrell, one of the few lucky ones, now
has a job he loves.109

private employers that conduct criminal background checks. Under
FCRA, if an employer rejects an applicant based on the background
report, a copy of it must be provided to the applicant prior to the
refusal to hire, which allows the applicant to correct any
misinformation.54 According to one study, employers are routinely
violating these fundamental consumer protections.55
Mirroring the upsurge in Title VII litigation, a number of FCRA lawsuits
have recently been filed. The suits challenge the failure of major
screening firms and employers to provide “pre-adverse-action” notices
and to ensure accurate reporting.56 The defendants include HireRight
Solutions, an employment screening firm that partners with companies
like Monster and Oracle; Prologistix, a staffing firm; and First Transit and
First Student, nationwide transit service companies; one such case settled
for $20 million in 2008 against LexisNexis.57 In addition to these lawsuits
filed by private parties, the Federal Trade Commission brought FCRA
charges against several railroad industry entities, including Quality
Terminal Services, LLC and Rail Terminal Services, LLC.58
The rise in legal actions highlights both the widespread non-compliance
of major companies with federal law, and the growing interest in
pursuing legal actions against employers, staffing firms, and
background check companies for unlawfully excluding people with
criminal records from work.


5	 Craigslist Survey Reveals Flagrant Abuses
by Nation’s Largest Companies

To more systematically document employer non-compliance with Title VII’s
basic protections, in 2010 NELP surveyed employment ads posted on
Craigslist, the widely used online community. Craigslist now operates in over
400 geographic areas in the United States and receives more than one million
new job ads a month.59 The project entailed sorting through thousands of ads
posted over four months in five major cities.60 This substantial pool of job
listings represents a slice of the national job market, providing more insight
into employer hiring policies and practices as experienced by applicants.
Although employers often remain anonymous on Craigslist (as many
no-hire ads were), the survey disclosed that some of the nation’s largest
employers and staffing firms post ads broadly precluding consideration
of individuals with criminal records. Among the more than 300 most
problematic ads on Craigslist, which represent the tip of iceberg given
the limited scope of the survey, there are several major companies
represented. They include Domino’s Pizza (170,000 employees worldwide),
Omni Hotel (11,000 employees in North America), and Adecco USA (70,000
staff on assignment). Numerous smaller companies also excluded people
with criminal records from consideration for advertised jobs.
The following sampling of blanket policies illustrates the range of
problematic ads routinely posted by employers on Craigslist. They fall
into four categories based on the breadth of the employer’s no-hire
policy: (1) no arrests/clean or clear records; (2) no felony or misdemeanor
convictions; (3) no felony convictions; and (4) no convictions within a
specified timeframe.

1)	 No Arrests/Clean or Clear Records
Employers that post “no arrests” or “clean” or “clear” criminal records
ads—the first category in the survey—likely are violating the EEOC

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


directive that “a blanket exclusion of people with arrest records will
almost never withstand scrutiny.”61 Nonetheless, the practice is
unexceptional; a 2010 survey of employers indicated that over 30
percent consider an arrest that did not lead to conviction to be at least
“somewhat influential” in a decision to withhold a job offer.62 The
following ad embodies one of the more flagrant violations:
“* No arrests or convictions of any kind for the past seven
years * No Felony arrests or convictions of any kind for life,”
Job ad for Electrician Contractor, Sept. 29, 2010, OMNI Energy
Services Corp. (emphasis added).63

“We are looking
for people with . . .
criminal history.”
(CORT Furniture Rental)

According to the EEOC, barring candidates based on arrest records can
almost never be justified except in the rare case when the employer
“evaluate[s] whether the arrest record reflects the applicant’s conduct.”64
“[E]ven where there is no direct evidence that an employer used an arrest
record in an employment decision,”65 an employer who inquires about
arrest information without giving the candidate an opportunity to
explain the underlying conduct violates Title VII.66 That’s because, as
the EEOC acknowledges, “arrests alone are not reliable evidence that a
person has actually committed a crime.”67
Applicant Example: A highly qualified African American electrician with
30 years’ work experience applies for the Electrician Contractor job ad
quoted above. He was erroneously arrested 20 years earlier for burglary
based on mistaken identity.
Because the OMNI Energy Services Corporation job ad discourages
anyone with a felony arrest “of any kind for life” from even applying,
the company would exclude this candidate—despite the fact that this
applicant has never actually committed an offense.
Within this category of ads are those with the more ambiguous “clean
record” requirement. For example:
“We are looking for people with . . . spotless background/
criminal history.” Job ad for Warehouse worker or Delivery
Drivers, Sept. 2, 2010, CORT Furniture Rental (emphasis
A job applicant could easily interpret this employment ad to mean that
if she had any arrests, she would not be considered for the job opening.
At the very least, this ad has a chilling effect on workers with arrest
records and could justifiably trigger an EEOC investigation into the
company’s hiring practices.


2)	 No Felony or Misdemeanor Convictions
The Craigslist survey revealed another sweeping category of blanket
exclusions of people with criminal records; this time requiring that job
applicants have no felony or misdemeanor convictions. As illustrated below,
these job ads, including one by a FedEx Ground contractor, broadly exclude
any applicant with any type of conviction over the individual’s lifetime,
regardless of the relationship of the conviction to the particular job.
. . . Clean criminal record, no misdemeanors, no felonies,” Job ad for
Diesel Mechanic, Delivery Driver, Sept. 24, 2010, Contractor for
FedEx Ground (emphasis added).69

“Must have no
or felonies”
International Parking
Services, Inc.)

“Must have no previous misdemeanors or felonies” Job ad for Valet
Attendant, May 12, 2010, Corinthian International Parking Services
Inc. (emphasis added).70
Job ad for Sewer Selling Technician, Feb. 10, 2010, Luskin-Clark
Service Company (emphasis added).71
Applicant Example: A highly qualified applicant was arrested five years
earlier because she did not report her income when she was receiving
unemployment benefits. Her husband had just died and she was struggling
to feed her three young children. She agreed after her misdemeanor
unemployment benefit fraud conviction to repay all monies.72
Each of these companies would be in violation of Title VII for their
rejection of this qualified candidate solely based on her isolated conviction.
The commission of fraud in the unemployment system is completely
unrelated to the job duties of a mechanic, a forklift operator, a valet
attendant, or sewer selling technician, nor is the offense recent, repeated or
sufficiently severe to pose a safety or security threat at the workplace.

3)	 No Felony Convictions
A subset of the prior category of job ads posted on Craigslist is the
exclusion of any applicant with a felony conviction, regardless of when the
offense took place, the type of felony, or the nature of the job and its
relationship to the crime. Ads exemplifying this exclusion included:
“Applicants must also pass a background investigation showing no
felony convictions.” Job ad for Delivery Driver, Jan. 28, 2010,
Domino’s Pizza (emphasis added)73

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


“Applicants must
also pass a
showing no felony


“Must have no felony convictions” Job ad for Part-time Valet
Attendant, April 21, 2010, Omni Hotel (emphasis added).74
“No felony convictions on a criminal background check . . . .”
Small Engine Technician, Feb. 4, 2010, Altaquip (emphasis

tions oh.
Applicant Example: A qualified, motivated job applicant has a drug
The possession conviction from 30 years ago. As a young man, he made the
mally ~
cianinto mistake of holding drugs for a friend. Learning from the mistake, he
lo's offi,
Delp distanced himself from negative influences. He paid all his fines and



(Domino’s Pizza)



as "1

penalties, has an extensive positive work record, and his conviction
history is spotless other than his sole conviction.


The applicant in the example would be rejected from any of the jobs
posted above on Craigslist. Never mind that the conviction was decades
old and the worker had rehabilitated himself. The employers
highlighted here would ignore these facts, thus underscoring the
unreasonableness of lifetime bans—they never allow an individual to
overcome his mistake nor do they recognize or encourage the worker’s

4)	 No Convictions Within a Specified Timeframe
A final category of ads routinely posted on Craigslist limits exclusions
to convictions within a specific, albeit protracted timeframe. While less
restrictive than a lifetime ban, even these more limited exclusions can
be problematic. The ads’ specified time period may be excessive, and
they fail to address the relationship between the offense and job. The
following advertisement exemplifies this type of exclusion:
“*Be able to pass a 7 year criminal background check (no
felonies, no misdemeanors)” Job ad for Forklift Operator, Sept.
8, 2010, Adecco USA (70,000 employees in the United States,
emphasis added).76
An absolute ban of applicants with convictions during the last seven
years violates Title VII. For example, a job candidate with an isolated
shoplifting or vandalism conviction from five years ago does not have a
record that reflects on her ability to safely and effectively operate a
forklift as required for this job. Nor is a five- or six-year-old conviction
sufficiently recent in all cases to pose a security threat on the job.
Indeed, the leading research on the recurrence of crime conclusively
repudiates this approach. As discussed above, even those individuals


convicted of a felony property offense are not likely to reoffend if they
have not had any contact with the criminal justice system in the past
3.8 years.77 Thus, a seven-year age limit on disqualifying offenses still
poses a substantial barrier that cannot be supported by the weight of
the available evidence on the risk of recidivism.

Staffing Firms
The basic mandate of the nation’s civil rights protections is not only
directed at employers. It also prohibits employee staffing firms from
imposing discriminatory policies on behalf of an employer. Both the
employer that made the request and the staffing firm that honored it
are liable under Title VII for unlawful screening practices.78 The
Craigslist survey uncovered a generous sampling of particularly
egregious no-hire ads by staffing firms:
“Minimum requirements for Employment Consideration, No
Exceptions!: 1. No Misdemeanors and/or Felonies of any type
ever in background,” Job ad for Warehouse and Manufacturing
Jobs, Feb. 18, 2010, Perimeter Staffing (staffing firm operating
in Atlanta, emphasis added).79
Manufacturing Jobs, Oct. 5, 2010, Carlisle Staffing (staffing firm
operating in Chicago area, emphasis added).80

(Carlisle Staffing)

“Candidates must . . . Be clear of felony convictions and criminal
history (background checks will be done),” Job ad for
Manufacturing position, Oct. 12, 2010, Abbott Staffing Group
(staffing firm operating in southern California, emphasis
“You must not have any felony or misdemeanor convictions on
your record. Period.” Passenger Van Driver, Feb. 28, 2010, Crown
Services Inc. (staffing firm operating in nine states, emphasis
“All candidates must consent to a drug test and criminal
background check (no felonies or misdemeanors allowed),”
Sales Associate, Sept. 28, 2010, Peak Organization (staffing firm
operating in New York City, emphasis added).83
The Perimeter Staffing, Carlisle Staffing, and Abbott Staffing ads are for
manufacturing or warehouse positions that involve little or no contact
with the public and thus pose limited risk to public safety. There is no

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


reasonable justification for banning highly qualified candidates from
these jobs who have, for example, non-recent misdemeanor or felony
convictions. Nor should the candidates for the driver or sales associate
positions be rejected by Crown Services and the Peak Organization based
on any number of minor misdemeanors, such as trespassing or loitering.
As the preceding examples illustrate, openly exclusionary no-hire bans
are commonplace. That employers and staffing firms continue to post
such ads notwithstanding the 20-plus-year-old Title VII guidance issued
by the EEOC suggests that even the nation’s largest employers are
either unaware of civil rights and consumer protections for people with
criminal records or are indifferent to them.

Arcadia Murillo | Chicago, Illinois
Janitor in Chicago Police Station
In 1999, Arcadia Murillo was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Working as a
bartender, she was swept up in a police drug raid and was charged with possession of a
controlled substance and refusal to cooperate with police. Luckily, within a month, the truth
became apparent: Arcadia had done nothing wrong and the charges were dismissed for lack
of probable cause.
In 2006, Arcadia began working for a cleaning services contractor and was assigned as a
janitor at a Chicago Police Department station. Early in 2009, a new company, Triad, took
over the contact and the City of Chicago performed a criminal background check. When
Arcadia’s 10-year-old dismissed charges showed up, the City refused to allow Arcadia to work
at the police station. No matter that Arcadia had worked hard at the job for over two years.
No matter that her arrest was actually dismissed. After losing her job, without even the
ability to explain the circumstances to the City, Arcadia filed a lawsuit against the City and
Triad for violating state law.110


6	Recommendations
While recognizing that criminal background checks fulfill a security function,
this report documents the urgent need to protect against arbitrary and
discriminatory practices that undermine the integrity of these employment
screening procedures. Given the proliferation of criminal background checks,
the time has come to implement fairer and more accurate background check
policies to balance the demand for employee screening with the basic rights
of workers competing for jobs in a struggling economy. The good news is
there is already momentum for reform both in the public and private sectors.
Building on these advancements, the following measures would serve the
interests of qualified workers with a criminal record seeking employment,
while also promoting public safety and security at the workplace.


The federal government should aggressively enforce
civil rights and consumer protections that apply to criminal
background checks for employment in the public and private
sectors. To vigorously enforce both Title VII and FCRA requires a
comprehensive, coordinated enforcement strategy on the part of
the EEOC, the FTC, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal
Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), and other federal
enforcement agencies. Significantly, many of the large companies
identified in this report have contracted with the federal
government for millions of taxpayer dollars in goods and services:
Accenture (with a total of $931 million in federal contracts in
2009),84 Bank of America, Aramark, Addeco USA, Lowe’s, OMNI
Hotel, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Co., and
Federal contractors, like all private employers, must comply with
Title VII, FCRA, and other basic federal civil rights and consumer
protection laws. In addition, they are required to comply with the

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


federal affirmative action and civil rights mandates set forth in
Executive Order 11246, which are enforced by OFCCP. This mandate
imposes special obligations on federal contractors to comply with civil
rights protections subject to strict penalties, including rescission of the
federal contract.86
a. Coordinating with the EEOC, the key federal enforcement agencies
should prioritize and implement a targeted enforcement strategy. To
prioritize this critical and timely issue, the EEOC and OFCCP local
offices must effectively identify criminal records cases when they come
through the door and thoroughly investigate them. In turn, the local
offices must coordinate nationally through the federal enforcement
agencies to jointly pool resources and investigate and prosecute the
highest-impact cases. To maximize impact, agencies should focus their
enforcement activities on the nation’s largest employers that maintain
broad employment restrictions of the type detailed in this report. Other
targets should include the major staffing firms and the private
screening companies, which design and implement criminal
background checks for most large employers.
b. The EEOC should update the criminal background check guidances
while initiating a national education campaign of the employer
community that also engages other key federal enforcement agencies.
The 20-year-old EEOC guidances provide a thoughtful assessment of
the law. However, with the proliferation of background checks in recent
years, the guidances should be resituated within today’s new realities
and challenges. The EEOC should adopt new, robust guidances that
reflect the latest empirical research, respond to the current integrated
structure of the criminal background check industry, and promote
model employer policies and worker protections.
With the support generated by a new EEOC directive, the agency should
work with its partners in the federal government to launch an
education campaign on criminal background checks for employment
targeting both the private and public sectors. To be successful, this
outreach and education initiative must also reach down locally (e.g.,
through the EEOC and OFCCP district offices) to employers large and
small and to workers of color hardest hit by the use of criminal
background checks for employment.



The federal government should adopt fair hiring policies
regulating federal employment and contracting that serve as a model
for all employers. The U.S. Attorney General recently announced a
cabinet-level initiative (the Reentry Council) to coordinate “reentry”
policies across the federal government. The initiative aims to improve
public safety by reducing barriers that undermine opportunities for
people with criminal records to be successfully reintegrated into their
communities.87 As a core component of this effort, the federal
government should become a model employer of people with criminal
records, leading by example to promote hiring in the private sector and
among state and local employers.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley made a compelling case for this approach
when he announced the city’s highly acclaimed reentry initiative: “We
cannot ask private employers to consider hiring former prisoners unless
the City practices what it preaches.”88 If the federal government
adopted model employer policies and required its federal contractors89
to do the same, 20 percent of the U.S. workforce would be subject to
fairer and more accurate criminal background checks for employment.90
a. Federal agencies and contractors should certify that their hiring
policies fully comply with Title VII. To move toward a model federal
policy that applies to the federal workforce and its contractors—
including service providers that receive federal funding to help employ
people with criminal records—the first step is for each agency to
scrutinize its hiring policies and certify that it complies with the EEOC’s
criminal records guidances.91 As illustrated by the lawsuit against the
U.S. Census Bureau, some federal agencies are neglecting to implement
the basic protections of Title VII.92
Equally important, each federal agency should ensure that its
contractors strictly conform to Title VII. In practice, that means
adopting contract language that incorporates the “job-related” and
“business necessity” requirements of Title VII. In addition, federal
contractors should be required to provide and maintain documentation
of their hiring procedures, including their job announcements and “jobrelated” criteria that apply to criminal background checks for
employment. The leadership of the Office of Personnel Management
(OPM) in guiding and centralizing these reform efforts will be critical to
developing a consistent and effective hiring policy across all agencies.

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


b. Federal agencies and contractors should adopt model hiring policies
that defer the criminal background check until the end of the hiring
process. Several federal agencies have adopted policies that reduce barriers
to employment for people with criminal records while maintaining public
safety.93 For example, it is not uncommon for federal agencies to wait
until the final stages of the hiring process to conduct a criminal
background check. This sends the message to applicants that they will
be evaluated based on their qualifications for the job, rather than being
segregated before they have a fair chance to establish their credentials.
The federal government could also take the next step and adopt the model
fair hiring protections in place in six states and thirty cities and counties.94
These government entities removed from their job applications the
question that requires the applicant to report a criminal record.To
ensure safety and security on the job, the government employers still
conduct criminal background checks in appropriate cases, but not until
the final stages of the hiring process. These reforms should be adopted
by federal agencies and promoted as best practices for federal
contractors by the Office of Management and Budget.
c. Federal agencies and contractors should adopt more transparent
procedures to ensure that workers with criminal records can fairly
navigate the hiring process. While the federal government hiring
process includes certain appeal rights for civil service applicants who
are denied employment based on criminal records,95 a large proportion
of the federal workforce is exempted from these protections.96 In
addition, many workers face their toughest challenge when their FBI
background checks come back with incomplete information. The
workers are unclear of how to dispute the information, yet they must
quickly produce corrections, often on very old and minor arrests or
convictions, in order for their applications to proceed.97
To address these obstacles, federal agencies should adopt the following
reforms: notification to rejected workers and implementation of an
appeal procedure that will allow workers to promptly challenge
background check inaccuracies; and a waiver policy that permits a
person with a disqualifying criminal record to produce evidence
documenting rehabilitation, strong work history, and absence of risk to
safety and security. A model waiver and appeal process was
incorporated into the post 9/11 terrorism security laws98 and was
recently implemented by the Transportation Security Administration.


This model process applied to nearly two million port workers and more
than one million truck drivers across the United States, which greatly
minimized the negative impact of criminal background checks on
African American and Latino workers.99
Similar procedures should be implemented for the federal workforce
and its contractors. Currently, companies that receive federal contracts
are not even mandated to provide any specific notice or appeal rights to
workers when they are denied employment or removed from their jobs
based on criminal background checks.100 Thus, these workers are often
blindsided and are left with no effective remedies to keep their jobs or
compete fairly for available job openings.


State and local governments should certify that their
hiring policies fully comply with federal civil rights standards and
launch employer outreach and education campaigns. Few state and
local governments have recently reviewed the worker protections that
apply to criminal background checks for employment, despite the
growing impact of background checks on the nation’s workforce. As a
first step, it is critical that the human resources departments of state
and local government entities evaluate their relevant policies and
ensure they are in compliance with the EEOC’s criminal records
guidances and require that their contractors do the same.

a. State and local enforcement agencies should play a leading role in
developing a strategic plan to reform employer screening policies.
Appropriate state and local enforcement agencies, including the state
attorneys general offices and the fair employment and consumer
protection agencies, should engage in an active education and impact
litigation strategy targeting employers, staffing firms, and the
background check companies. As described above, the New York
Attorney General’s recent enforcement actions offer an impressive model.
For example, in the RadioShack settlement, the company agreed to revise
its screening policies to provide individualized assessment of convictions
and the reason for disqualification to rejected applicants, and to maintain
documentation of its hiring processes.101 In addition, because the nation’s
largest screening firms account for the vast majority of criminal
background checks, states’ attorneys general and other appropriate
enforcement agencies should engage in joint and coordinated national
enforcement actions against these firms with the FTC.

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


b. State and local governments should adopt model fair hiring policies
regulating public and private sector hiring. After incorporating the
EEOC’s guidances into their hiring processes, local and state
governments should adopt the reforms that have been sweeping the
country.102 As described above, this may include removing the job
application question regarding criminal history and delaying the
background check until the final hiring stage. To promote model
policies in the private sector, several cities have also required employers
that receive government contracts to adopt the same fair hiring
practices.103 Some states have taken the critical next step of requiring all
private sector employers to adopt specific fair hiring policies.104 For
example, in Massachusetts, all employers with more than six employees
are now prohibited from asking a job applicant to provide any criminal
history information on a written application prior to the interview.105

FOUR: The employer community, together with Craigslist, should
play a leadership role in raising the profile of this critical issue and
promoting best practices that properly balance the mutual interest
of workers and employers in fairer and more accurate criminal
background checks for employment. Ultimately, it is up to the employer
community, the staffing firms, and the background check companies to
step up to this national challenge. Like the model government employers
described above, most companies should recognize it is in their best
interest to not unreasonably limit the applicant pool in order to compete
for the best-qualified workers. In turn, by promoting a fairer and open
hiring process, they are sending a powerful message that they are
committed to the community and diversity.
In addition, Craigslist should accept responsibility for ensuring fair
employment practices in this new era when the Internet is the leading
source of job postings for millions of unemployed workers. Craigslist
could be a leader among online job forums by posting a disclaimer of
the type of discriminatory practice described in this report and by
publicizing information on its website about the EEOC’s standards
regulating criminal background checks for employment. The practice
has precedent as Craigslist has taken similar steps for its housing ads.106


As both the population of people with criminal records and the demand
for background checks have grown, enforcement of civil rights and
consumer protections for people with criminal records has not kept
pace, to the detriment of millions of workers.
Although the Title VII standards provide a fair and effective framework
to evaluate criminal records for employment, the problem of
unregulated criminal background checks remains endemic. Too often,
employers, staffing firms, and screening firms continue to disregard
civil rights and consumer protections, categorically banning people with
criminal records from employment.
The recent wave of criminal records litigation and public policy
advances is encouraging, but leveraging these developments to
strengthen worker protections requires bold, new leadership. By taking
the critical next steps—which begins by recognizing the scope of this
historic national challenge and then adopting the type of corrective
measures proposed in this report—millions of deserving workers will
have a fairer shot at employment, allowing them to contribute to their
communities and help rebuild America’s economy.

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment




According to a recently published survey of the Society
of Human Resources Management—the largest
association of human resources personnel—92 percent of
their members, which were mostly large employers,
perform criminal background checks on some or all job
candidates. See Society for Human Resources
Management, Background Checking: Conducting
Criminal Background Checks (Jan. 22, 2010), at 3.


NELP based the estimate of U.S. adults with criminal
records on the following methodology. According to a
2008 survey of states, there were 92.3 million people with
criminal records on file with states, including those
individuals fingerprinted for serious misdemeanors and
felony arrests. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of
State Criminal History Information Systems, 2008 (Oct.
2009), at Table 1. In some states, misdemeanor arrests for
less serious crimes do not require fingerprinting, thus
this figure is likely an undercount of people with
criminal records. To account for individuals who may
have records in multiple states and other factors, and to
arrive at a conservative national estimate, the 92.3
million figure was reduced by 30 percent (64.6 million).
Thus, as a percentage of the U.S. population over the age
of 18 (232,458,335 in 2009 according to the U.S. Census
Bureau, Population Division, available at http://www.,
an estimated 27.8 percent of the U.S. adult population
has a criminal record on file with states. This estimate is
consistent with a Department of Justice finding that
about “30 percent of the Nation’s adult population” has a
state rap sheet. U.S. Dept. of Justice Office of the
Attorney General, The Attorney General’s Report on
Criminal History Background Checks (June 2006), at 51.
The rise in people with criminal records may
significantly be attributed to the increased arrests
associated with the “War on Drugs.” See Ryan S. King,
Disparity By Geography: The War on Drugs in America’s
Cities, The Sentencing Project (May 2008).



Employers often perform criminal background checks to
limit their potential liability if an employee commits an
unlawful act on the job. However, following the EEOC
guidance and performing an individualized assessment
of the conviction will generally satisfy the legal
requirements and eliminate the risk of liability on the
employer’s part. See National H.I.R.E. Network, Negligent
Hiring Concerns, available at http://www.hirenetwork.
See Brent W. Roberts, et al., Predicting the
Counterproductive Employee in a Child-to-Adult
Prospective Study, 92 Journal of Applied Psychology 1427,
1430 (2007). There is little research examining the

correlation between the existence of a criminal record
and the propensity to commit crimes at the workplace.
However, in this study of New Zealand residents from
birth to age 26, researchers found that the existence of a
criminal record for 13- to 16-years-old was unrelated to
engaging in “counterproductive activities at work” at age
26, including tardiness, absenteeism, disciplinary
problems, violence, theft, property destruction, and
substance abuse. Id. at 1427, 1429–1430.

Many people who have a criminal record that shows up
on a background check have never been convicted of a
crime; in fact, one-third of felony arrests never lead to
conviction. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Felony
Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2004 (April 2008).


According to a study in Illinois that followed 1,600
individuals recently released from state prison, only 8
percent of those who were employed for a year
committed another crime, compared to the state’s
54-percent average recidivism rate. American
Correctional Assoc., 135thCongress of Correction,
Presentation by Dr. Art Lurigio (Loyola University) Safer
Foundation Recidivism Study (August 8, 2005).


The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that in
2006, the federal, state and local governments combined
spent over $68 billion on corrections; in 1982, that figure
was $9 billion. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics,
Employment and Expenditure, available at http://bjs.ojp.


The reduction of employment rates of people with
felonies and prison records results in a loss of the output
of goods and services to the economy. See John Schmitt
& Kris Warner, Ex-offenders and the Labor Market,
Center for Economic and Policy Research (Nov. 2010), at


Devah Pager, Bruce Western & Naomi Sugie, Sequencing
Disadvantage: Barriers to Employment Facing Young
Black and White Men with Criminal Records, 623 The
Annals of the American Academy, 195, 199 (2009).

10	 Commissioner Earp, Transcript of November 20, 2008
EEOC Meeting on Employment Discrimination Faced by
Individuals with Arrest and Conviction Records, at 2.

Press Release, US Department of Labor announces grant
competition to help former offenders gain career skills and
rejoin community life (Feb. 10, 2011), available at http://

12	 See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., available at http://www.eeoc.

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


13	 See The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
Policy Statement on the Issue of Conviction Records
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1982), Feb. 4, 1987. See also The U.S.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Policy
Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest Records in
Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., 1982, Sept.
7, 1990. Research has shown that people of color are
subject to greater scrutiny and harsher treatment at
decision points throughout the criminal justice system.
For example, a study showed that drivers of color were
stopped by police and searched for contraband at higher
rates than whites and another study indicated that
people of color charged with felonies were more likely to
be detained than whites. The Sentencing Project,
Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System:
A Manual for Practitioners and Policymaker (2008) at 2. In
a recent study controlling for important legal factors and
judicial district, African-Americans and Latinos were
found to receive longer sentences than white defendants.
Jill K. Doerner & Stephen Demuth, The Independent and
Joint Effects of Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Age on
Sentencing Outcomes in U.S. Federal Courts, Justice
Quarterly, 27: 1, 1–27 (2010), at 14.
14	 U.S. Dept. of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation,
Crime in the United States, 2009, at Table 43.
15	 Blacks account for over 39 million of the U.S. population
of 307 million. See U.S. Census Bureau, Population
Division, Table 3, Annual Estimates of the Resident
Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the
United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009 (NC-EST2009-03),
available at
16	 Whites account for 69.1 percent of all arrests in the
United States. See supra note 14. Whites account for over
244 million of the U.S. population of 307 million (79.6
percent of the population). See supra note 15.
17	 The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
Policy Statement on the Issue of Conviction Records
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1982), Feb. 4, 1987.
18	 Id.
19	 The researchers calculated the number of years it took for
individuals who were arrested for certain felony offenses
at 16, 18, and 20 years old to have the same risk of arrest
as same-aged non-offenders in the general population.
Alfred Blumstein & Kiminori Nakamura, “Redemption” in
an Era of Widespread Criminal Background Checks,
National Institute of Justice Journal, Issue No. 263 (June
2009) at 12-13. See also Alfred Blumstein & Kiminori
Nakamura, “Redemption” in the Presence of Widespread
Criminal Background Checks, Criminology, Volume 47,
Issue 2: 327–357 (May 2009). In another study, 18-year-olds
with criminal records had a substantively similar
probability of being arrested as non-offenders after not
having contact with the criminal justice system for six to


seven years. Megan Kurleychek, Robert Brame & Shawn
Bushway, Scarlet Letters and Recidivism: Does An Old
Criminal Record Predict Future Recidivism? Criminology
and Public Policy, Vol. 5. No.3 (2006).
20	 A 20-year-old arrested for robbery had the same risk of
arrest as a same-aged non-offender after 4.4 years.
Blumstein & Nakamura, supra note 19.
21	 See “Redemption” in an Era of Widespread Criminal
Background Checks, supra note 19, at 14.
22	 Examples of inaccuracies commonly found in
commercially prepared background checks include
records being wrongly attributed to individuals, multiple
reporting of the same incidents, and uncorrected identity
theft. See NELP & Community Legal Services of
Philadelphia, Comments to Federal Trade Commission
regarding FACTA Notices (Sept. 20, 2010), available at
See also, Shawn Bushway, et al., Private Providers of
Criminal History Records: Do You Get What You Pay For?
in Barriers to Reentry?: The Labor Market for Released
Prisoners in Post-Industrial America (2007) (Based on a
survey of on-line providers of criminal background
checks, the study finds routine non-compliance with the
worker protections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.) See
e.g., Leonardo Molina v. Roskam Baking Company, Case
No. 09-cv-475 (filed May 26, 2009, W.D. Mich.) at First
Amended Complaint. The plaintiff class represented by
Lyngklip & Associates, Consumer Law Center, sued the
Roskam Baking Company in Michigan. Lead plaintiff,
Leonardo Molina, was terminated from his job after a
background check erroneously reported a conviction and
two charges. Although Molina’s record was actually clear,
he was not given the opportunity to explain the
mistakes on his background report.
23	 U.S. Dept. of Justice Office of the Attorney General, The
Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History
Background Checks (June 2006) at 3.
24	 See supra note 10, Commissioner Ishimaru at 3.
25	 Arroyo v. Accenture, Case No. 10-civ-3013 (S.D.N.Y., filed
April 8, 2010), at Complaint at 1.
26	 Id. at 7.
27	 Netted $21.55 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2010.
Accenture Fact Sheet, available at http://newsroom.
28	 See Hudson v. First Transit, Inc., Case No. C10-03158
(N.D.Cal., filed July 20, 2010), at Complaint at 1, 2, 4. The
class of workers are represented by NELP and the law
firms of Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian
and Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym.
29	 Mays v. BNSF, Case No. 1:10-cv-00153 (N.D. Ill., filed Jan. 11,
2010), at Complaint at 3.

30	 E-RAILSAFE, the private screening firm that operates
the railroad industry’s background checks, has also been
the subject of a Congressional inquiry. On February 16,
2007, the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on
Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation
Security and Infrastructure Protections held a hearing
on the impact of background checks and security
clearances on the transportation workforce focused
specifically on the e-RAILSAFE program. Written
testimony available at
ee members. NELP sent a memo on this matter to the
House Subcommittee on Transportation Security and
Infrastructure Protections, available at http://www.nelp.

40	 NELP represents a client who filed an EEOC charge
against Select Truckers Plus, a truck driver staffing
company. Select Truckers Plus posted a job
announcement on October 28, 2009 listing job
requirements as including “No DUI/DWI in previous 5
years[,] No Felony Convictions or time served in the
previous 7 years [and] No drug related or violence related
misdemeanor Charges.” Job ad on file with NELP. See
Select Truckers Plus website, available at http://www.

31	 BNSF Factsheet, available at

42	 NELP Letter to Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru,
(dated June 9, 2009), available at

32	 Johnson, et al. v. Locke, Case No. 10-cv-3105 (S.D.N.Y., filed
April 13, 2010).
33	 Id. at First Amended Complaint at 2. The U.S. Census
“required nearly all job applicants who have ever been
arrested to produce within 30 days the ‘official court
documentation’ for any and all of their arrests . . . This
requirement eliminated 93 percent of these applicants . . .
[L]ess than 5 percent of applicants required to submit
official court documentation ultimately were deemed
eligible for hire.” This policy operated in practice as very
nearly a “no arrest or conviction history allowed” policy.
Census hired more than one million temporary workers
and 3.8 million applied for the temporary work. Id. at 1–2.
See also Plaintiffs’ website available at http://www.
34	 Id. at 1, 26.
35	 EEOC v. Freeman, Case No. 8:09-cv-02573 (D. Md., filed
Sept. 30, 2009). Another suit, EEOC v. Peoplemark, Case
No. 1:08-cv-907 (W.D. Mich., filed Sept. 29, 2008) was
voluntarily dismissed.
36	 See Press Release, EEOC Files Nationwide Hiring
Discrimination Lawsuit Against Freeman (Oct. 1, 2009),
available at

41	 Bank of America is one of the world’s largest financial
institutions and reported these figures in June 2010. See
Bank of America Mid-Year Report 2010 at 6, available at

43	 Figures are not specific to the U.S. See Manpower
website, available at
44	 See New York Correction Law §§ 752-53.
45	 RadioShack operates approximately 4,000 stores. In the
Matter of the Investigation of Andrew M. Cuomo,
Attorney General of the State of New York, of RadioShack
Corporation, Assurance of Discontinuance, AOD No.
09-148, at 5, available at
46	 Id.
47	 Chad Terhune, The Trouble With Background Checks,
Business Week (May 29, 2008), at 4, available at http://
48	 See In the Matter of the Investigation of Andrew M.
Cuomo, Attorney General of the State of New York, of
ChoicePoint Workplace Solutions Inc., et al., Assurance of
Discontinuance, AOD No. 09-165, at 6, available at http://

37	 Id.

49	 Id. See also New York Executive Law §§ 296 (15), (16); New
York Correction Law §§ 752-53.

38	 There are several EEOC charges filed by workers against
large employers across the nation, but because of
pending negotiations and settlements, these employers
are not named in this report.

50	 See In the Matter of the Investigation of Andrew M.
Cuomo, Attorney General of the State of New York, of
ABM Industries Inc., Assurance of Discontinuance, AOD
No. 10-173, at 4.

39	 NELP represents Johnny Magee, profiled in this report,
who filed an EEOC charge against Lowe’s. Lowe’s
operates more than 1,725 stores in the United States,
Canada and Mexico and has approximately 238,000
employees. See Lowe’s website, available at http://media.

51	 Id. at 5.
52	 See In the Matter of the Investigation of Andrew M.
Cuomo, Attorney General of the State of New York, of
Aramark Corporation, Assurance of Discontinuance, AOD
No. 09-164, at 5.

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


53	 See supra notes 45, 48, 50, and 52.
54	 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(b)(3).
55	 See Bushway, et al., supra note 22.
56	 See Williams v. Prologistix, Case No. 1:10-cv-00956 (N.D. Ill.,
filed Feb. 11, 2010); Smith v. HireRight Solutions, et al., Case
No. 4:10-cv-444 (N.D. Okla., filed July 7, 2010); Henderson v.
HireRight Solutions, et al., Case No. 10-cv-443 (N.D. Okla.,
filed July 7, 2010); Hunter v. First Transit, Case No. 1:09-cv06178 (N.D. Ill.; filed Oct. 5, 2009); Joshaway v. First
Student, Case No. 2:09-cv-02244 (C.D. Ill., filed Oct. 5, 2009);
Ryals v. HireRight Solutions, et al. Case No. 3:09-cv-00625RLW (E.D. Va., filed Oct. 5, 2009).
57	 See id.; see also Williams v. LexisNexis Risk Mgmt., Case
No. 3:06cv241 (E.D. Va., filed April 10, 2006).
58	 The two lawsuits produced settlements requiring civil
penalties of $53,000 and $24,000, respectively. See Press
Release, Two Companies Pay Civil Penalties to Settle FTC
Charges; Failed to Give Required Notices to Fired Workers
and Rejected Job Applicants (Aug. 11, 2009), available at
59	 Cities, counties, or areas listed in the United States are
available at
Craigslist Factsheet, available at http://www.craigslist.
60	 NELP’s survey focused on five low-wage and/or low-skill
industries in five major cities across the United States.
The job categories surveyed on Craigslist included: (1)
Customer Service; (2) Food/Beverage/Hospitality; (3)
Manufacturing; (4) Retail/Wholesale; and (5) Skilled
Trade/Craft. See e.g., Craigslist website for list of job
categories, available at
five major cities were the San Francisco Bay Area, Los
Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and Atlanta. Sampling
four random month-long time periods during 2010, the
survey found over 2500 job ads that referenced a
criminal background check requirement. Among these
approximately 2500 ads, over 300 included the most
overt and problematic type of screening criteria featured
in this report. (Job ads on file with NELP.) If this survey
were expanded to include all U.S. geographic areas where
Craigslist operates and all the listed occupations over a
more extended time period, there would certainly be
thousands of postings by employers and staffing firms
communicating blanket policies against hiring people
with criminal records. Further, these findings do not take
into account that many employers have such policies in
place but do not communicate their hiring restrictions in
their job postings. Thus, the results of this survey
represent just the tip of the iceberg among the
thousands of employers each year that have a blatant—
even documented in writing—blanket, no-hire policy.
61	 See EEOC Arrest Record Guidance, supra note 13.
62	 See supra note 1, at 5.


63	 OMNI Energy Services Corp. specializes in providing
services and rental equipment to geophysical companies
and offshore operations. In 2009, the total revenue was
$122.4 million and they have approximately 625
employees. See OMNI Energy Services Corp. website,
available at
64	 See EEOC Arrest Record Guidance, supra note 13.
65	 This is because it “is generally presumed that an
employer only asks questions which he/she deems
relevant to the employment decision.” See id.
66	 As noted in the EEOC Arrest Record Guidance, see id.,
numerous states have either prohibited or advised
against pre-employment inquiries regarding arrest
information, including New York, Hawaii, Oregon,
Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, District of
Columbia, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Utah,
Washington, West Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho,
Massachusetts, Michigan, and Mississippi.
67	 See id.
68	 CORT is the world’s largest provider of rental furniture
and has more than 2,000 employees. See CORT rental
furniture website, available at
69	 Fiscal year 2010 indicated $7.4 billion in revenue and a
workforce of more than 67,000; however, these figures
are not U.S. specific. See FedEx Ground Facts, available at
70	 Corinthian International Parking Services Inc. is a fullservice parking management company employing more
than 400 people from San Jose to Sacramento. See
Corinthian International Parking Services website,
available at
71	 Luskin-Clark Service Company is a provider of plumbing,
heating, air conditioning, electrical and home
improvement in Los Angeles County. See Luskin-Clark
Service company website, available at http://www. The website LinkedIn
indicated that there were approximately 100 employees,
available at
72	 This example is based on one discussed in the EEOC
guidance to illustrate the evaluation of records. See EEOC
Arrest Record Guidance, supra note 13, at Example 2.
73	 Domino’s Pizza has nearly 600 corporate-owned stores
and a system of more than 5,000 domestic franchiseowned stores; the company has approximately 170,000
employees worldwide. See Domino’s Pizza Financial
Tearsheet, available at

74	 Omni Hotels has 45 luxury hotels and resorts across
North America and 11,000 employees. See Omni Hotels
website, available at
AboutOmniHotels/OmniHotels.aspx. The ad was for
Omni Los Angeles.
75	 Altaquip is a service company for powered equipment
and tool repairs and has 27 locations. The website for the
company does not list the number of employees. See
Altaquip website, available at
About-Us/CareerOpportunities.aspx. One website
reported that Altaquip has 500 employees. See http://
76	 Adecco USA is a recruiting and staffing company. See
Adecco USA website, available at http://www.adeccousa.
77	 See Blumstein & Nakamura, supra note 19.
78	 See Enforcement Guidance: Application of EEO Laws to
Contingent Workers Placed by Temporary Employment
Agencies and Other Staffing Firms, at Question 7 (Dec.
1997), available at
conting.html. See also 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2.
79	 Perimeter Staffing is a staffing agency based in Atlanta.
See Perimeter Staffing website, available at http://www.
80	 Carlisle Staffing, Ltd. is a temporary, temp-to-hire and
direct hire staffing agency in the Chicago-land area and
suburbs. See Carlisle Staffing, Ltd. website, available at
81	 Abbott Staffing Group serves the Orange County, Los
Angeles and the Inland Empire. See Abbott Staffing
Group website, available at http://www.abigailabbott.
82	 Crown Services Inc. is a staffing firm operating in 9
Midwestern states with more than 35 offices. See Crown
Services Inc. website, available at http://www.
83	 Peak Organization is a staffing firm in New York City.
See Peak Organization website, available at http://www.
84	 See Federal Procurement Data System - Next Generation
Top 100 Contractors Report (2009), available at https://
85	 These companies were identified as having contracts
with the federal government through the online
database the Federal Procurement Data System – Next
Generation (FPDS-NG). FPDS-NG data provides details
on the procurement activities of more than 60 federal
departments, available at

86	 Executive Order 11246 prohibits federal contractors and
federally-assisted construction contractors and
subcontractors who have over $10,000 in government
business (in one year) from discriminating in
employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion,
sex, or national origin. See Facts on Executive Order
11246—Affirmative Action (Jan. 4, 2002), available at http://
87	 Press Release, Attorney General Eric Holder Convenes
Inaugural Cabinet-Level Reentry Council (Jan. 5, 2011),
available at
88	 Press Release, Mayoral Task Force Releases
Recommendations on Prisoner Reentry, (Jan. 24, 2006),
available at
documents/prisonerreentrypressrelease.pdf. See also
Breaking The Cycle of Incarceration and Building
Brighter Futures In Chicago: Final Report of The Mayoral
Policy Caucus on Prisoner Reentry (Jan. 2006).
89	 A “federal contractor” includes companies that provide
goods or services to a federal agency, receives federal
funds for a construction project, or provides goods or
services to another company that supplies a federal
agency or receives construction funds. U.S. Dept. of
Labor, OFCCP, New Contractors’ Guide (Aug. 2009) at 4,
available at
90	 “Nearly one in four American workers is employed by an
establishment that receives federal funds for contracted
work. That’s nearly 200,000 businesses with contracts
totaling almost $700 billion.” Keynote Address by Patricia
A. Shiu, Director of the Office of Federal Contract
Compliance Programs at the U.S. Dept. of Labor (Sept. 30,
2010), available at
91	 See NELP Presentation to EEOC, Criminal Background
Checks for Employment: Promoting Model Federal Hiring
& Contractor Policies that Protect Civil Rights & Public
Safety (April 21, 2010), available at
92	 Currently, federal government hiring is proscribed by
“suitability” standards established by the Office of
Personnel Management (5 C.F.R. part 731), which provides
individual federal agencies with guidelines and
discretion to adopt their own criminal background check
policies and procedures. In addition, federal employers
are regulated by Title VII and by post 9/11 security
procedures (Homeland Security Presidential Directive/
HSPD-12) requiring a criminal background check on
anyone who works on a regular basis on federal
premises. Homeland Security Presidential Directive/
HSPD–12—Policy for a Common Identification Standard
for Federal Employees and Contractors, Public Papers of
the President, George W. Bush, Vol. 2, Aug. 27, 2007, p. 1765
(2007). See also NASA, et al., v. Nelson, et al., 131 S. Ct. 746

65 Million “Need Not Apply:” The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment


(2011) for discussion of federal employer security
procedures. Opinion available at http://www. Within
broad guidelines established by the Office of
Management and Budget, each federal agency also
establishes its own screening standards and protections
that apply to their contractors.
93	 See NELP Presentation at National EEO Directors’
Meeting (April 2010), at 8–10, available at http://www.nelp.
pdf?nocdn=1. In fact, the federal government’s Office of
Personnel Management regulation states, “[b]ecause
suitability issues may not arise until late in the
application/appointment process, it is generally more
practical and cost-effective to first ensure that the
applicant is eligible for the position.” 7 C.F.R. § 731.103.
94	 See National League of Cities & NELP, Cities Pave the
Way: Promising Reentry Policies that Promote Local
Hiring of People with Criminal Records, (July 2010) at
Appendix, available at
SCLP/2010/ CitiesPavetheWay.pdf?nocdn=1 (hereinafter
Cities Pave the Way); see also NELP, New State Initiatives
Adopt Model Hiring Policies Reducing Barriers to
Employment of People with Criminal Record (Sept. 2010),
available at page/-/SCLP/
ModelStateHiringInitiatives.pdf?nocdn=1 (hereinafter
State Initiatives).
95	 5 C.F.R. §731.301.
96	 The growing numbers of designated “exempt” workers
employed by the federal government now exceeds the
number of workers classified as “civil service” workers.
Compared to civil service employees, the federal agencies
that employ “exempt” workers are not bound by the
OPM’s procedural protections that apply to criminal
background checks for employment.
97	 The FBI should work with federal agencies and
contractors to improve the accuracy of the FBI rap
sheets that are generated in response to criminal
background check requests. As documented by the U.S.
Attorney General, 50 percent of these records are
incomplete because the states fail to regularly update
the arrest information submitted to the FBI. See supra
note 23. As a result, the entire burden of correcting the
records falls on the workers, which significantly delays
the hiring process and has a disparate impact on workers
of color. See NELP, A Scorecard on the Post-9/11 Port
Worker Background Checks: Model Worker Protections
Provide a Lifeline for People of Color, While Major TSA
Delays Leave Thousands Jobless During the Recession
(July 2009), available at
cf7a15_70m6i6fwb.pdf (hereinafter A Scorecard). As
proposed by the Fair and Accurate Criminal Background
Checks Act (H.R. 5300), the FBI should update these
records before they are released to the federal agencies.
See NELP, Fairness & Accuracy in Employment
Background Checks Act (H.R. 5300) Factsheet, available at


98	 See 46 U.S.C. §70105.
99	 See A Scorecard, supra note 97.
100	 See NELP Presentation to EEOC, Federal Hiring &
Contractor Policies that Protect Civil Rights & Public
Safety (April 21, 2010), available at
101	 See supra note 45, at 8–13.
102	 See Cities Pave the Way, supra note 94.
103	 Cities that require vendors to adhere to fair hiring
policies include: Boston, MA; Cambridge, MA; Worchester,
MA; New Haven, CT; and Hartford, CT; and Battle Creek,
MI. See id., at Appendix.
104	 Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and
New York require private employers to adhere to various
fair hiring measures. See State Initiatives, supra note 94.
105	 See FactSheet distributed by the Massachusetts
Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), available at
106	 The Craigslist disclaimer in the housing context indicates
that “stating a discriminatory preference in a housing
post is illegal” and provides a link to a factsheet
describing basic information about the Fair Housing Act,
available at
107	 Order for Release from Penalties and Dismissal Under
P.C. 1203.4 (filed July 22, 2008).
108	 See NELP Press Release (dated Nov. 20, 2008), available at
109	 See Dawn Turner Trice, CPS: Good Conduct certificate
not good enough, Chicago Times (July 29, 2010), available
ct-met-trice-cps-0728-20100728_1_cps-boiler-room-secondchance; Dawn Turner Trice, CPS reverses itself, gives job
candidate a 2nd chance: Worker was haunted by 25-yearold conviction, Chicago Times (Sept. 26, 2010), available at
110	 See Arcadia Murillo v. City of Chicago and Triad
Consulting Services, Inc., Case No. 10CH36826 (Cir. Ct.
Cook County, filed Aug. 25, 2010). Plaintiff is represented
by Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym.


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