Labor & Employment

Texas sues EEOC over federal guidance on employer use of arrest and conviction info


The state of Texas has sued the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in federal court in Lubbock over enforcement guidance provided by the EEOC in April 2012 concerning the use of arrest records and criminal convictions when making employment decisions.

The EEOC says that relying on such records can have a disparate impact, because of racial and national origin bias that exists in the criminal justice system. It also notes that discrimination can occur if an employer weighs arrest or conviction records differently as far as minorities are concerned.

However, the state contends in the suit filed Monday by Attorney General Greg Abbott that the EEOC is infringing on the sovereign authority of Texas to impose blanket bans on hiring convicted felons in certain positions, as well as creating a safety hazard. It seeks a declaratory judgment barring the agency from enforcing the guidelines, reports Courthouse News.

“If state agencies choose to comply with the EEOC’s interpretation, they not only violate state law, but also must rewrite their hiring policies at taxpayer expense,” contends the complaint. “And these state entities also must begin evaluating and hiring felons to serve in law enforcement, teach in local elementary schools, nurse veterans and the disabled, counsel juvenile detainees, and coach Little League. This would expose the entire state–including, in particular, its most vulnerable citizens–to a class of individuals who have a proven track record of disobeying the law. And it could expose state entities to liability for employee misconduct.”

A spokeswoman for the EEOC says its guidance doesn’t prohibit employers from relying on arrest and criminal history information but simply seeks to educate them against doing so in a discriminatory way, reports the Associated Press.

The Dallas Business Journal, KETK and KXXV have stories, too.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Target removes criminal history questions from job applications nationwide”

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