Business Law Blog

Addressing Employment Discrimination Through Comprehensive Background Check Reform

Posted by Amanda Butler Schley | Mar 04, 2024 | 0 Comments

In the landscape of modern employment, the balance between ensuring workplace safety and fostering a fair, inclusive environment has never been more difficult. 

While navigating through the complexities of employment discrimination and the pivotal role of background checks, it's essential to understand how these elements intersect and the path forward toward reform. 

This journey isn't just about legal compliance; it's about redefining the ethos of our workplaces to reflect justice, equality, and opportunity for all.

Problems with Current Background Check Guides

Background checks, intended as a safety net, often become a web entangling many in a cycle of rejection and despair. 

The TM Institute for Leadership and Democracy Foundation sheds light on a stark reality: these checks can disproportionately impact marginalized groups, particularly pre-employment discrimination.  

A compelling study discussed by the University of California, Berkeley, brings to light the racial bias inherent in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Specifically, the study uncovers that African Americans are nearly twice as likely to be denied employment opportunities based on background checks than their white counterparts, a disparity that persists even when factors such as criminal history and job qualifications are equivalently accounted for.

Further emphasizing the need for reform, research published in the University of Chicago's Journal of Labor Economics highlights the significant employment hurdles faced by individuals with criminal records, particularly those from minority backgrounds. The findings suggest that having a criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a job callback by up to 50% for African Americans. 

Knowledge is power, and understanding your rights is the first step toward empowerment. 

What Are Your Rights?

The Federal Trade Commission outlines the essential rights of job applicants, emphasizing consent and transparency in the background check process. Yet, this knowledge is not universal. Bridging this gap is crucial for empowering individuals and advocating for systemic change.

The Justice Department's proposals to update regulations reflect a growing recognition of the need for adaptability in our legal frameworks. 

The legal landscape, as detailed by Justia, offers protections against discriminatory practices in background checks. 

However, the efficacy of these protections is often undermined by loopholes and inconsistent enforcement. 

But, the good news is that anyone can find and correct inaccurate or outdated information on their background check, and many times the process doesn't cost a penny. 

Federal law provides methods that can be used to limit the information that is included on background checks, which may harm your chances of employment, and in Louisiana, “Ban the Box” laws help prevent people from being discriminated against based on previous incarceration. 

Moreover, you can check to see your criminal records (and what will show up on a background check) by accessing the Louisiana Computerized Criminal History System (LACCH). This can be an effective way to identify any criminal records that you may not know about

Background Check Reform

Many agencies and groups are working toward this end, delivering blueprints for comprehensive reform.

Envision a system where background checks are not only transparent but tailored, focusing on relevance to the job at hand and allowing for redemption and rehabilitation. 

This vision is not just aspirational but achievable, with dedicated effort and societal commitment.

By embracing comprehensive background check reform, the root causes of employment discrimination can be understood, providing opportunity and fostering a more inclusive, equitable workforce

About the Author

Amanda Butler Schley

Ranked as a Top Rated Business and Commercial Attorney, I have more than a decade of experience representing boutique hotels, family-owned businesses, privately owned restaurants, breweries, artists, executives and entrepreneurs.


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Business Law Group is a boutique business services law firm in New Orleans, Louisiana. Our focus is on understanding the legal pitfalls of your business and industry, as well as the secrets to maximizing your legal leverage at every opportunity and in every negotiation. We work selectively with clients that aren't ready for the overhead expense of an in-house general counsel, but understand the advantages of having a trusted legal advisor on their team. Amanda Butler has been ranked as a Louisiana SuperLawyer, New Orleans Top Lawyer, Best Lawyers, and in Leaders of Law.