An applicant waits in line at a job fair in New York City in 2013. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Tue, Mar 11, 2014 12:22 PM EDT

On Monday two U.S. agencies issued joint guidelines for employers and job seekers on the proper use of criminal background checks. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, together with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission emphasized that employers need express written permission to conduct a background check, and must warn applicants that such information could be used in hiring decisions. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warns that it's illegal, "to check the background of applicants and employees when that decision is based on a person's race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information (including family medical history), or age (40 or older)."

"For example, asking only people of a certain race about their financial histories or criminal records is evidence of discrimination."

All too often often though, background checks are a tool of discrimination which relegate men of color in particular to the ranks of the terminally unemployed.

For more, read Kai Wright's deep dive into the widespread use of illegal background checks, and the EEOC and FTC joint publication in full.