Employee Data Privacy..

What does a “criminal” look like?  I can tell  you that they don’t run around in stripes….

I’ve been reading philosophers on various business ethics topics in the “Oxford Business Ethics Handbook”… It’s a good resource for a variety of topics, many of which will end up in my class.

In a lengthy (philosophers always write long stuff) article on employee data privacy, not one word was mentioned about criminal background checks.

It seems to me that this is an important area of privacy — the ability to start over once a person has made a mistake.  It may not be the case that hiring a felon right out of prison is a good idea, but a recent study I read says that if a person has a clean criminal record for four years, they are statistically no more likely to commit a crime than an average person.

Our society has many avenues for making a clean start.  People lose jobs in one field and are hired in another.  People go to school in order to start over…  so why is it that a long-ago felony should have an impact on a person’s present?  Isn’t it the case that everyone has something in their past that they’re not proud of, I know I do… and I’m not sharing.  Then again, I don’t have to share or tell a potential employer about my dumb-ass youth, because it isn’t a matter of public record.

Another way to read that study would be to say that any person with a minimum of four years of clean criminal record has exactly the same chance of being a future felon than does someone who has actually committed a felony.  So, why use a criminal background check that goes back more than four years?

The fact of the matter is that the $39.95 paid for a background check is money out the door… probably paid to a private company to dig around in electronic records.  Instead, it seems that it would be more cost-effective to send hiring managers to training to make sure an employee is a good fit — and perhaps to teach them some interviewing techniques.

The article also doesn’t discuss social media — and now about 35% of employers google or facebook potential employees.  I think the violation of privacy that comes with needlessly looking at criminal records is much worse than an employer looking at what you put up on a PUBLIC website.  Frankly, if you don’t want photos of yourself and your friends making asses of yourself with someone’s cell phone camera, take them down.  You have that choice — but, requiring someone to consent to a criminal background check as a condition of employment is something else all together.

We’re all for second chances for politicians, celebrities, and other folks we find interesting or sympathetic, why doesn’t that include the right to keep past bad actions from influencing your future?


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