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EEOC Informal Discussion Letter

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. The letters, which are informal discussions of the issues, do not constitute official opinions of the Commission.

Title VII: Conviction Records

December 14, 2004


This is in response to your e- mail inquiry of December 5, 2004, requesting information concerning discrimination against "ex-offenders." Specifically, you ask whether financial institutions can lawfully deny employment to convicted felons regardless of the nature of the crime. You also ask whether such institutions are subject to fines if they hire "convicted felons."

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has the responsibility of enforcing, among other laws, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII), 42 U.S.C.

§ 2000e et seq., which prohibits discrimination against applicants and employees on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin.

Although Title VII does not, on its face, prohibit discrimination on the basis of conviction records, the EEOC and courts have concluded that a policy or practice of excluding individuals from employment on the basis of their conviction records may have an adverse impact on certain minority groups in light of statistics showing that they are convicted at a rate disproportionate to their representation in the population. If there is such an impact, the policy or practice can be maintained only if the employer can show a business need.

Whether there is a business need for excluding individuals with conviction records from particular jobs depends upon:

  • the nature and gravity of the offense or offenses;
  • the time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and
  • the nature of the job held or sought.

The attached documents discuss these factors in more detail.

If a federal law subjects employers in a particular industry to fines for hiring convicted felons into certain jobs, employers covered by that law would have a business need to conform to those legal requirements. However, because the EEOC does not enforce any laws regulating the employment of convicted felons by financial institutions, we cannot provide any information on potential fines that might be imposed. Any fines to which financial institutions are subject for hiring convicted felons are probably imposed by banking laws. For information about such laws, you may wish to contact:

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Legal Division
550 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20429-9990

We hope this information is helpful to you. Please note, however, that this letter does not constitute an opinion or interpretation of the Commission within the meaning of § 713 of Title VII.


Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel
Title VII/EPA/ADEA Division


This page was last modified on January 18, 2007.