The informal letter (available here) is in response to a request for information from the EEOC about apprentice training programs and employment training for ex-offenders. The original request was written by an inmate scheduled to be released after serving six and a half years.

The informal response was written by Carol R. Miaskoff, Acting Associate Legal Counsel of the EEOC, and states the following:

If an employer says that you may not be hired because of your criminal record, the EEOC’s position is that you should have an opportunity to provide more facts before the employer makes a final decision. Information about your prior, successful employment or participation in job training programs may demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Similarly, information about your social support in the community or from personal references may demonstrate that you will have the support necessary to be a reliable worker. If there are errors in your criminal record, you should definitely inform the employer. You will know about any errors if you contact law enforcement agencies and review a copy of your criminal record before applying for jobs.

The letter states further that employers should consider (1) the nature and gravity of the offenses leading to conviction, (2) elapsed time since conviction and/or completion of the sentence, and (3) the nature of the job held or being sought. The response also includes a number of documents relating to criminal background checks, chief among them being EEOC Enforcement Guidance No: N-915.002 entitled “Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” released on April 25, 2012 and available here.

The letter, in effect, states the EEOC’s current position on criminal background checks and does not represent an “official opinion of the Commission.” However, it undoubtedly could be used for leverage if presented to an employer. Pretty smart prisoner if you ask me.

by Art Gutman, Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

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