Should Employers Be Allowed to Take into Account Whether a Prospective Employee is a Felon?

A Washington Times article by Deborah Simmons Sunday examined the the, in Simmons’ words, “movement called ‘Ban the Box’ [which is] urging lawmakers in the District of Columbia and elsewhere to limit or bar the ‘have you ever been convicted of a crime’ question so that ex-felons’ applications for jobs, housing and the like aren’t rejected out of hand…”

The article quotes two Project 21 members, Horace Cooper and Joe Hicks, on related issues.

On Friday Project 21 issued a press release critical of an EEOC determination that checking the conviction status of prospective employees can be racist. Horace Cooper said, in part, that “background and credit checks are legitimate hiring and recruitment tools” and that lawsuits alleging racial discrimination because of felon status “lessen the impact of real allegations of racism.”

Joe Hicks said, in part, “Americans strongly believe in the concept of redemption, but there must be consequences for illegal behavior. To claim otherwise suggests that employers should ignore employment standards and simply hire people based on some ideological concept of ‘social justice.’ The notion that criminal background checks disadvantage blacks and Latinos is based in the reality that blacks are 38 percent of the prison population but only 12 percent of the general population. This shouldn’t be used as an argument for eliminating employment standards, but a reason to understand and combat the dysfunction and violent criminality that’s an all-too-real part of poor black urban life.”

Justin Danhof, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s General Counsel, and I had additional comments on this EEOC determination in a Monday press release.

Back in 2006, I commented in this blog about an effort to make criminals a protected class in the District of Columbia, which would have given ex-cons an advantage in the employment market over people who have never been convicted of a crime.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.