The news: In April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released new guidelines surrounding the use of criminal records for employment.
Behind the news: An unreasonable use of criminal records likely affects more black job applicants, shows a Chicago Reporter analysis of Illinois Department of Corrections records. In 2010, the rate of imprisonment in Illinois among African Americans was 10 times higher than that of white people.
Racial hiring discrimination is a particular problem in Illinois, according to the EEOC, which logged 1,997 related complaints in the state in 2011—the fifth-highest in the country.
Devah Pager, a professor of sociology at Princeton University, found that many employers are not only loathe to hire black ex-offenders but actually view a criminal record as more serious in black applicants than their white counterparts.
“White [people] with a criminal record are about half as likely to receive a callback for a job offer relative to white [people] with no criminal background,” she said. “Black [people] are only about a third as likely.”
The EEOC acknowledges that criminal records do have some relevance to the quality of an applicant, but the goal of the new guidelines is to help employers understand the importance of looking at the severity of a crime and how long ago it was committed, instead of just immediately weeding out all applicants with questionable pasts.