Aug. 12, 2004 – Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the US, will begin conducting criminal background checks on potential employees and is considering checks on current employees. The practice, which the company says is in response to two alleged sexual abuse incidents involving company employees, will begin in September.
While Wal-Mart did not indicate what will happen to those found to have criminal records, the company did say anyone caught lying about past criminal activity would not be hired. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, potential employees with criminal records will be judged on a case by case basis.
Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a spin-off organization from the American Civil Liberties Union that focuses exclusively on workplace human rights issues, explained to the Wall Street Journal the impact the policy could have on people convicted of more serious crimes who are looking to reintegrate into society. "The single most important aspect of an ex-con staying rehabilitated is having a job," he said.
The methods for gaining access to criminal records are highly unreliable, the Journal article notes. There is no federal database that a company can log into to search for past criminal activity. Available criminal records themselves do not give an accurate picture of criminality among the American population. White-collar crimes are often not punished as harshly or escape conviction all together, while petty, one-time crimes -- such as marijuana possession -- are often prosecuted.