On December 21, 2015, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (Commission) issued Legal Enforcement Guidance (Guidance) clarifying New York City’s prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing and public accommodations has been illegal under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) since 2002. According to the accompanying press release, the Guidance is intended to make clear, through specific examples, what the Commission considers gender identity and gender expression discrimination under the City law and to offer best practices to employers and other stakeholders on how to comply with the law. The Guidance also solidifies New York City’s place as having one of the most protective laws in the country for transgender and other gender non-conforming individuals.
The EEOC Aggressively Pursues Criminal Background Check Policies
On June 11, 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed two separate lawsuits against Dollar General and BMW Manufacturing Co. LLC, accusing each company of discriminating against Black job applicants through the improper use of criminal background screens. The aggressive positions taken by the EEOC in these cases demonstrate the agency means business with respect to cracking down on criminal background check policies that it feels are not consistent with its April 25, 2012 enforcement guidance on the use of criminal conviction and arrest records in employment decisions. The lawsuits also underscore the importance of reviewing existing policies in light of the EEOC’s emphasis on this issue.
For decades, the EEOC has taken the position that criminal background check policies pose a particular threat of adverse impact discrimination against Black and Hispanic job applicants in light of statistics showing that they are convicted at a rate disproportionally greater than their representation in the population. The agency’s first written policy guidance on the use of criminal background screens, published in 1987, explains that “the Commission has held and continues to hold that [criminal background check policies are] unlawful under Title VII in the absence of a justifying business necessity.” In April 2012, the EEOC issued new guidance on the topic (click here to read our April 30, 2012 blog entry on the EEOC’s guidance). Technically, the new guidance did not establish new rules. It undoubtedly illustrates, however, the increased scrutiny under which EEOC is reviewing criminal background check policies such as those at issue in the Dollar General and BMW lawsuits. READ MORE
Credit Checks & Employment Discrimination—State Legislatures and the EEOC Take Action
Faced with the current uncertain economic climate and concerns regarding the plight of the unemployed, several state legislatures have recently passed or introduced bills restricting employers and prospective employers from using credit checks in hiring and personnel decisions. For example, on October 12, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 22 into law, creating California Labor Code section 1024.5, which prohibits California employers from using a consumer credit report for employment purposes except in limited circumstances. In passing this law, California joined six other states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington) in recently enacting laws restricting the use of credit checks in employment decisions. And the trend is expected to continue. As of February 13, 2012, 36 bills in 19 states and the District of Columbia have been introduced or are pending concerning the use of credit information in employment decisions. Click here for a list of the bills. READ MORE