One in three people has a criminal record, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance forbids discrimination against people based on their records, but Texas has sought to set this aside.
An article in The Nation noted how Texas wants to make the process of firing people with criminal records easier.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission passed an enforcement guidance five years ago that said Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids blanket employment discrimination of people with criminal records. The EEOC noted black people are six times more likely to have served time in prison than whites.
The guidance passed by a bipartisan 4-1 vote. The EEOC said people from poorer communities of color are disproportionately convicted of crimes. Therefore, hiring policies that impose prohibitions on candidates with a conviction discriminate against minorities.
In practice, this means employers should grant applicants individualized assessments and look at factors such as the seriousness of the offense rather than imposing a blanket ban, how much time passed, and whether any rehabilitation has taken place.
Texas has challenged the codification of these standards in federal law.
In November 2013, former Texas attorney general and present Governor Greg Abbott filed a suit to block the EEOC order.
Abbott requested a federal court issue a declaratory judgment allowing state agencies to deny jobs to people with records. Abbott sought to block the EEOC from issuing right-to-sue letters, the form of legal notification the federal agency produces when officials believe there is grounds for a discrimination claim.
That suit was dismissed, but it was revived by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in June 2016, reported The Nation.
Texas is impacted by the guidance as an employer bound by Title VII. In other words, because the state hires people it has a right to challenge the guidance in court.
In August 2017, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Employment Law Project, filed a motion to intervene.
They sought to make Beverly Harrison, a Dallas women who lost her job as a crossing guard due to a prior criminal conviction, and the Texas Conference of the NAACP new defendants in the case. Attorneys would be able to defend the guidance in court.
The NAACP fears the Trump administration likely will not defend the EEOC’s ruling.
However, US District Judge Sam Cummings denied the motion after the EEOC and Department of Justice promised to “vigorously litigate” the case.
The attorneys who want to defend it in court are less convinced that the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions will follow through on its promise.
Irrespective of the future of the EEOC guidance, a criminal conviction can ruin your career prospects. If you have been charged with a crime, it’s important to hire an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer.