Background Checks

Here’s a portion of a subhead from a Wall Street Journal article by Joe Palazzolo: “In recent years, dozens of states have made it easier for people to conceal their brushes with the criminal justice system, broadening the scope of laws that allow for the expungement or sealing of criminal convictions and arrests.”  The upshot of the article is that privacy concerns seem to take precedence over reporting a record of convictions if the record has been “expunged.”

On the one hand, it makes sense that an arrest record should not be used as a screening tool by background reporting companies, particularly when it comes to deciding whether or not to hire someone.  As I’ve written so often, an arrest is not the same thing as a conviction.  A conviction is another matter, entirely.  But from the employer’s perspective, convictions do matter, especially in terms of helping insure a safe work place; and, generally, convictions for violent felonies cannot be expunged.

But there’s another side to this issue that deserves to be considered.  While one or more convictions for, let’s say, drunk driving may not rank up there with a conviction for workplace violence, if the employer is hiring truck drivers, those drunken driving convictions are a serious matter and the prospective employer ought to have the right to know about them!

I can certainly appreciate the need for the right to privacy – and to make it easier for people who have made a mistake to still find a job.  But when it comes to the employment process, hiding a history of criminal convictions seems to be as much a disservice to employers as screening out job seekers on nothing more than an arrest!