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Bed, Bath and Beyond settles suit over criminal background checks

Criminal background checks in the hiring process are a common procedure used by many companies in New York. As a society, we may be trained to accept this process. When a commercial vehicle is involved in an accident, the driver’s driving record (if any) may be detailed in news reports. If a teacher is accused of abusing students, the question of any potential criminal background may make headlines.

However, the law generally does not give businesses carte blanche to use criminal background checks to deny employment in a blanket company policy. That was the issue in a recent claim against Bed, Bath and Beyond. The New York Attorney General’s office says that the household product retailer engaged in discriminatory hiring practices through its use of criminal background checks in the hiring process.

The AG opened an investigation into the issue after hearing that a human resources representative for the retailer allegedly provided information to prospective workers at a job fair that the company would not hire anyone with a felony conviction on his or her record. The investigation led to a lawsuit challenging the company’s alleged blanket background check policy.

That lawsuit has settled, although the company says that the settlement agreement is not an admission that any discrimination occurred, according to Bloomberg News.

Federal law does not expressly prohibit companies from inquiring into a job applicant’s criminal background, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, how a company uses information obtained in a criminal background check may implicate workers’ rights laws that prohibit workplace discrimination.

Source: Bloomberg News, “Bed Bath & Beyond Ends Ban on Workers With Criminal Past,” Christie Smythe  April 22, 2014

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