EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
Title VII-Conviction Records
This is in response to your letter to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), that our office received on September 12, 2003. You are incarcerated and request general guidance on whether a trucking company may reject an applicant for employment on the basis of a felony conviction record.
The Commission enforces, among other laws, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII). Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the bases of race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. Title VII bars use of an employment policy that appears to be neutral but that disproportionately excludes protected groups, unless the policy is job related and consistent with business necessity.
Courts have held that a policy of disqualifying applicants on the basis of conviction records may disproportionately exclude some minority groups. See, e.g., Green v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, 523 F.2d 1290 (8th Cir. 1975), appeal after remand, 549 F.2d 1158 (8th Cir. 1977). An employer can nonetheless justify such a policy if it can show either that: 1) the policy does not have the exclusionary effect in his or her workforce, or 2) the employer has a business need to bar employees with conviction records from the job being sought. The following three factors are weighed in determining whether such a business need exists:
For example, since truck drivers are typically responsible for their employer's truck and its cargo, a trucking company could probably justify a requirement that its drivers have no recent convictions for theft crimes. Of course, we can address the legality of any specific policy only after a charge has been filed.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against, you may file a charge with the EEOC. You may call 1-800-669-4000 to locate the EEOC field office nearest to you. You may also contact the EEOC's website at www.eeoc.gov for additional information. For your information, we have attached the following guidance:
We hope that this information is helpful to you. Please note, however, that this letter does not constitute an opinion or interpretation of the Commission within the meaning of § 713(b) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-12(b).
Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel
1. EEOC Policy Guidance No: N-915, "Policy Statement on the Issue of Conviction Records under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," February 4, 1987.
This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.
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