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Don’t reject convicted felons unless you have legitimate business reason

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

Q. Our hiring process involves conducting background and reference checks. If an employee has a felony conviction within the past seven years, we automatically refuse employment. Any reason we should change our policy?

A. Yes. Carefully review your policy and consider revising it in light of the fact that it may have a disparate impact and discriminate against certain protected classes of applicants. If you don’t have a legitimate business reason for denying a position to the best-qualified applicant, you may be subject to liability.

For example, there may be no legitimate business reason to deny a job as your company’s receptionist to an applicant with a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction. Such an office job does not involve driving. On the other hand, if the position involved a salesperson driving to see customers, you can make a good argument that you have a legitimate business need to consider that specific conviction.

Illinois has joined other states in enacting a 0.08 blood-alcohol content (BAC) level to end drunken driving and improve safety. Any person who drives in Illinois with a BAC of 0.08 or higher now risks being charged with DUI. Experts estimate that the new law could save as many as 65 lives each year in Illinois and prevent thousands of injuries. However, this also means that employers may see an increase in the number of applicants with DUI convictions.

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