NRF survey: Retailers use background checks for safety

Washington, D.C. -- A new survey released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation found that nearly all retailers rely on background checks to keep their customers, and themselves, safe.

The survey, completed by retail executives from 96 of the nation’s leading department stores, mass merchants, discounters, drug stores, grocery stores and restaurants, examined retailers’ use of background screenings during the application and employment process.

Nearly all retailers (97%) utilize background screening in some form during the application, hiring and employment process, according to the survey. Additionally, companies routinely conduct pre-employment background checks on a wide range of associates from senior executives (85.7%) to store associates (55.2%), with a particular focus on customer-facing employees and managers.

A majority of retailers report screening is conducted for most job categories, including store, distribution center and corporate office employees, since each of these positions work with customers, manage merchandise or handle sensitive information. Even senior executives undergo background screening in most companies.

The survey results highlighted current concerns that retailers have about potential EEOC guidelines that will prohibit criminal history checks.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is currently considering new guidelines that would prevent all businesses from asking potential employees about their criminal history during the application process.

The so-called “Ban-the-Box” guidelines, coined by retailers based on the criminal history box seen on most application forms, was the focus of a recent EEOC meeting in July 2011. The hearing examined employment barriers for convicted criminals and ways to ease criminal re-entry into the workforce. NRF joined a dozen other industry groups to express concerns over “banning-the-box” and outline its adverse impact on retailers, employees and consumers.

New guidance could be issued by the EEOC as early as this month.

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