For over 50 years, the Lawyers’ Committee has advanced racial equality in the areas of community development, criminal justice, educational opportunities, fair employment and business opportunities, fair housing and fair lending, immigrant rights, judicial diversity and voting rights. As a national leader in combating employment discrimination, the Lawyers’ Committee has undertaken numerous initiatives, including the Access Campaign, a program that has attacked the indiscriminate use of criminal and credit history information through litigation, public education, federal, state and local legislative advocacy. Additionally, as co-chair of the Employment Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights – a coalition of over 150 organizations – the Lawyers’ Committee works with the larger civil rights community on numerous employment issues generally, as well as with the necessary enforcement agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Justice.
Increasingly, minority applicants face employment discrimination as the result of information in their credit history and through the use of criminal background checks. Recent reports estimate that approximately 47 percent of employers use credit checks to screen job applicants and upwards of 80 percent of employers apply criminal background checks – often ignoring statutes that limit or regulate the use of this personal information. The effects of these checks are felt most harshly by minorities, who are twice as likely to be disqualified on the basis of credit history and because of mass over-incarceration, have a disproportionate rate of criminal histories.
As part of the Project’s work on employment, Public Policy works very closely with the Employment Discrimination Project on legislative priorities that ensure strong government enforcement of fair employment laws, including legislation that will give all Americans an equal opportunity to work hard without discrimination or bias.