House Republicans Criticize EEOC on Criminal Background Checks and Enforcement Tactics

The criticisms were leveled during an oversight meeting on June 10, 2014 of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections chaired by Time Walberg (R-Mich.).  The entire hearing may be viewed at here. Among various witnesses, Lucia Bone, founder of Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E. testified that her sister, for whom the foundation was founded, was murdered by a twice-convicted sex offender who worked in Sue Weaver’s home for a duct-cleaning subcontractor.  Bone testified that her sister would likely be alive today if the subcontractor had conducted a criminal background check.  Representative Walberg’s take was that “There isn't a member of Congress who wouldn't be outraged if his or her loved one suffered the same fate as your sister.”

Other notable comments include:

John Kline (R-Mich), the full committee chairman, labeled the EEOC guidance as a potential job killer for small employers, and that it could have the “perverse effect” of creating barriers for the very workers the EEOC wants to protect.

Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association in Washington echoed Kline’s statements regarding small business and added that the EEOC guidance offers no “safe harbor” from potential Title VII liability even in the face of state laws that mandate criminal background checks and that the EEOC should offer such a safe harbor.

Attorney Camille Olson, representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce management, criticized EEOC’s delegation of authority to its general counsel, as well as failures to adequately investigate charges.  She also cited court sanctions and monetary awards against the EEOC by courts.  She stated “The EEOC's abusive enforcement tactics must be addressed.”

On the other hand, Sherilynn Ifill, representing the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. in New York, noted the EEOC has prevailed in 9 of the past 10 cases taken to jury trial and that most charges are settled short of litigation.

Also, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the subcommittee's ranking minority member, questioned by the Republican leadership, did not invite any EEOC representative to testify, stating if “you don't have the agency here to answer …. Then I'm very puzzled by the process.”

Bottom line - this comes on the heels of other criticisms of EEOC guidance on background checks in prior Alerts, and adds to the apparent divide between Republicans and Democrats.

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

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