I'm sure EEOC commissioners quite don't see it that way, but what else can the rest of us conclude from the following statement, issued in their own report?
"An employer's use of an individual's criminal history in making employment decisions may, in some instances, violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, as amended."
Ensconced on their lofty perches in the EEOC, the commissioners then piously intoned in their report that "a covered employer is liable for violating Title VII when the plaintiff demonstrates that the employer's neutral policy or practice has the effect of disproportionately screening out a Title VII-protected group and the employer fails to demonstrate that the policy or practice is job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity."
That might sound fine in the world EEOC commissioners inhabit, but things are different out in the real world, as my two anecdotes will show.
In January 2005, a first cousin of mine, trying to recover from years of drug addiction, took up residence in a Baltimore halfway house. One night some hoodlums came looking for one of his housemates.
It seems the housemate had stiffed some drug dealer for some money. The hoodlums wanted him to pay up. My cousin, accompanied by one of the hoodlums, went to an ATM and cleaned out his bank account to pay the miscreants.
They weren't satisfied. They killed the housemate who owed the debt; then they killed my cousin and one other resident of the house.
Now, with that in mind, let's go back to this question of criminal background checks being "consistent with business necessity."
In EEOC commissioner world, criminal background checks are only licit if, say, an ex-convict who's been convicted of theft is applying for a job at a bank.
In the real world, there are public safety issues. Ex-convicts have pasts that are likely to catch up with them. Suppose the thugs who murdered my cousin -- and his housemates -- had come looking for the guy who owed them money not at the halfway house, but at his place of employment?
That, dear EEOC commissioners, is one reason employers do criminal background checks in the first place. They do it to avoid problems. Big problems, sometimes.
Anecdote No. 2: Before I became a professional journalist, I supervised a patient escort department at a Baltimore hospital. One of the men I supervised had a criminal record.
One day, the head of security came in my office and told me his guards had nailed the guy for stealing from a patient's room. I talked to my supervisee, who assured me he had nothing to do with the theft and was innocent.
I had worked with this fellow quite a spell and felt convinced I knew when he was lying and when he wasn't. I concluded he was on the level.
"When you get out of jail and all this is cleared up," I told him, "your job will be here waiting for you." He eventually did and returned to work.
I didn't need pious recommendations from EEOC commissioners to reach my conclusion. I didn't need the advice of the likes of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Benjamin Todd Jealous, who approved of the EEOC commissioners' stance and proclaimed, "Our criminal justice system is deeply biased against people of color."
All I needed was my experience in a real-world work situation. You have to wonder if EEOC commissioners and Jealous have ever had such an experience.
Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.