Background Checks

An interesting court case for employers involving background checking, EEOC vs. Freeman, made it all the way to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  In a nutshell, here’s what the court had to say: “In 2001, Freeman began conducting background checks on its job applicants, which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleges had an unlawful disparate impact on black and male job applications.”  The district court granted a summary judgment in favor of the defendant, Freeman, without going through a full trial because, the court said, the EEOC’s expert testimony was unreliable and the EEOC “failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination.”

In other words, the district court didn’t address the question of whether Freeman’s background checks did or didn’t discriminate against blacks or males, it merely said the expert testimony was inaccurate.  According to the Court of Appeals, “The district court identified an alarming number of errors and analytical fallacies” in the expert testimony.

In a concurring opinion by another appellate judge, quoting another EEOC suit, it was noted that, “the EEOC owes duties to employers as well: a duty reasonably to investigate charges, a duty to conciliate in good faith, and a duty to cease enforcement attempts after learning that an action lacks merit.”

Finally, in the same concurring opinion, the appellate court judge wrote, in part, “That the EEOC failed in the exercise of this…duty in the case now before us would be restating the obvious.”

Interesting outcome.