Cuyahoga Community College came under media scrutiny this past week after it refused to retain an employee based on a background check, which revealed a 16 year old criminal conviction.
Maria Graicani has been a student at the college for the past two years and worked as a Student Ambassador, a position which helps new students orient to campus by providing tours and assisting with plan programs.
The college has always performed background checks on prospective employees, but this year they extended their process to include their student ambassadors. It requires the ambassadors to reapply for their position each year with a background check performed each time. When Graciani reapplied for her position, she was turned down.
Graciani has said that her criminal conviction is embarrassing to her. She was convicted for assault in 1996, which stemmed from accusations of striking a woman with a beer bottle during an altercation at a local bar. She maintains she was not the one who hit the woman, but her public defender recommended she plead guilty to avoid serving jail time.
Graciani’s story hit the campus newspaper shortly after the discovery was made, which snowballed to the local press and landed Cuyahoga Community College under much scrutiny. Yesterday, the college admitted publically that they were in error by refusing to rehire Graciani based on her prior conviction. Administrators of the school met with her and offered her a position, but clearly she felt this violated her integrity, as she ultimately refused the offer.
Whether or not you feel the school was in error by rescinding the job offer, this story gives an almost perfect example of how important it is for employers who conduct background checks to be well informed of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s recent guidance (http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm) on the use of arrest and criminal records when making a hiring decision. Backgrounds Online recommends taking into account the age of a criminal record, the seriousness of the conviction and if there has been a history or pattern of repeat behavior. We also encourage employers to review the guidance to ensure their hiring policies fall in line with the EEOC. Unfortunately, ignoring the EEOC can potentially open companies up to an investigation, which could be followed by lawsuits.