Should Felons Be Allowed Behind the Wheel of Big Rigs?
Trucking companies have long held policies against hiring convicted felons as commercial truck drivers. And with good reason: Investigations of truck hijacking and theft problems many times found that the truck driver was involved in the scheme.
Trucking companies have also gone to great lengths to screen drivers to avoid hiring those with criminal records. Back in the early '80s — before the internet and more sophisticated screening technologies were available — one trucking company had a team screening all the local newspaper police blotters and kept a "Do Not Hire "list of names of anyone even suspected of committing a crime.
Today, screening drivers to keep out the criminal element has grown and most trucking companies have strict policies against hiring anyone with a criminal background, especially those with felony convictions.
And most fleets feel secure they are within their rights to refuse jobs to felons.
That may change, though, with the settlement of a lawsuit against one of the nation's largest motor carriers.
Recently, J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., agreed to settle agreed to settle a discrimination case involving an African American man denied work as a driver because of his criminal record, after a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC said it also reviewed the company's broader policy with respect to the hiring of job applicants with conviction records. Blanket prohibitions are not in accordance with the agency's policy guidance on the subject, which was reissued on April 25, 2010, EEOC says.
The EEOC's guidance recommends evaluating: the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct; the time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and the nature of the job sought prior to disqualifying a candidate with such a record.
As part of the five-year conciliation agreement, J.B. Hunt agreed to review, revise if necessary, and provide additional training concerning its hiring and selection policies and practices to comply with the EEOC's guidance. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the conciliation agreement. The alleged victim also entered into a private settlement agreement with J.B. Hunt.
"We commend J.B. Hunt for correcting its policy on criminal convictions and for taking measures toward ensuring equal employment opportunities for all workers," said Olophius Perry, district director of the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office. "Employers should follow J.B. Hunt's lead in reviewing and revising existing arrest and conviction policies so that they comply with federal guidelines."
Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
So if you have a policy against hiring anyone with a felony conviction, you might want to consult with a labor law expert to make sure your policy isn't in violation with the EEOC guidance.
The full EEOC guidance is available at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/