For the first time in 25 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission refined its guidelines on discrimination against people with arrest or conviction records.
The law already warned that making hiring decisions based on arrest records or criminal convictions "may, in some instances, violate the prohibition against employment discrimination."
But under the new guidelines, passed late last month, an employer's use of arrest and conviction information from background checks has to be "narrowly tailored" to the specific job. In short, writes the EEOC, an arrest or conviction shouldn't be used to disqualify applicants unless the conviction is related to the job itself.
That theoretically is good news for many communities where job discrimination has rippled through neighborhoods and hurt the social fabric and mental health of its residents.
A group of Chicago-based researchers from the Institute on Social Exclusion found low-income communities of color, such as Englewood, that see higher instances of incarceration and arrest are most affected by employment discrimination.
The Institute, part of the Adler School of Professional Psychology, focuses on social ills, like employment discrimination, and the impact on mental health.
In a recent study of 250 Englewood residents, researchers found that 40 percent said an arrest never led to a conviction, but they still experienced employment discrimination.