The Use of Arrest Records In Pre-Employment Screening In Franklin County, Ohio

by L. Camille Hébert; Roberta F. Garber

Oct 20, 2001

Researchers reviewed the legality of employers using arrest records without convictions in pre-employment screenings; conducted surveys and focus groups to learn about pre-employment screening practices in Franklin County, OH; and studied arrest record data to determine whether black males in the region were more likely than others to be arrested and not subsequently convicted.

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits unintentional discrimination on the basis of race in employment. Disqualifying an African-American man based on an arrest record is likely to be a violation of this title.
  • Wisconsin, California, and New York, among others, directly restrict employer use of arrest records. Protection is relatively limited in Ohio though, with only an expunged record being legally off limits.
  • About half of employers surveyed sometimes seek information about arrest records during pre-employment screening, but employers do distinguish between arrest records and conviction records and are much more likely to rely on conviction records.
  • Data limitations made it impossible to draw conclusions about the ratio of arrests to convictions for various demographic groups. But these same limitations mean that it is difficult for employers to determine from existing criminal history databases if a person who has been arrested has or has not been convicted.
  • Applicants are more likely to be screened out based on verification of prior employment, motor vehicle records, and verification of educational attainment than arrest records.