NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 18, 1997

Employers can be sued in court if they favor a stable worker over someone with mental or emotional problems, or if they hire an employee with no criminal record to the disadvantage of a former felon, personnel experts warn. In the eyes of the federal government that is "discrimination," and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is there to assist the "wronged" party in the suit.

Laws in some states also seem to favor former criminals when they go job hunting.

  • The Boston Police Department is currently in legal hot water because of its refusal to hire an applicant who once gunned down another man in a gang war -- the applicant describing the shooting as an unfortunate situation.
  • The Wisconsin civil rights agency is challenging a nursing home for failing to hire a mother whose newborn baby stopped breathing when it inhaled fumes from crack cocaine the mother had been smoking.
  • In 1989 the EEOC demanded that a trucking company hire convicted felons to handle "high-risk" freight such as computers.
  • The police commissioner of Cambridge, Mass., threatened to resign when city leaders pressured him to hire eight recruits who had earlier been convicted on such charges as assault and battery and receiving stolen property.

The EEOC has long considered unlawful any employer policy turning away any persons convicted of or charged with serious crimes. "Because it disproportionately excludes members of certain groups from being hired, it can be looked at as discrimination," an EEOC official explained. That is because blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have police records than whites.

But in the case of the freight-handler applicants, federal Judge Jose Gonzalez ruled against the EEOC, saying that if applicants "do not wish to be discriminated against because they have been convicted of theft then they should stop stealing."

Source: Walter Olson (Manhattan Institute), "How Employers Are Forced to Hire Murderers and Other Felons," Wall Street Journal, June 18, 1997.


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