In the state of Texas, there is a law that says it is okay to screen out workers who apply for jobs if they have criminal records, even if those criminal records happened well in the past or would have little bearing on the position for which the individual was being evaluated. Some representatives of the EEOC consider this as discrimination and are urging Texas to change its practices. The EEOC is making it clear that it doesn't want employers to have to hire those with criminal backgrounds, but the entity feels that denying someone a job on that basis alone is grounds for discrimination.
The attorney general of the state of Texas disagrees with EEOC's standing. In fact, he has now put into play a lawsuit against the EEOC. The lawsuit challenges the EEOC's authority to give guidance to Texas employers on how to judge someone who has a prior criminal record.
The EEOC has returned fire. They explain that their position is not to tell employers they must hire someone with a criminal background, but that they shouldn't necessarily say "no" to someone who was once placed under arrest. Representatives of the EEOC are suggesting that there is a middle ground that doesn't violate the rights of those who have already served their sentences.
Whether or not Texas wins its suit against the EEOC, the case brings to light discrimination issues that many people with criminal records face when they seek employment. There may be in excess of 65 million individuals in the United States who have an arrest or conviction on their records. This means any of them could become victims of a system that might unfairly judge their pasts rather than focus on what they can offer. No doubt some of them who are denied the opportunity to perform jobs will eventually take their cases to a court to decide their employment fates.
Source: Houston Chronicle, Smith: Past criminal history should not limit job opportunities, Johnathan Smith, Nov. 14, 2013