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POLL: Do you think employers should use background checks?

BY Megan Thompson and Tracy Wholf  August 23, 2014 at 1:08 PM EST

In the last decade, the number of employers that run criminal background checks on job applicants has increased dramatically. Today, almost 90 percent of employers run a check on at least some of their applicants.

Employers and screeners say the checks are an important tool for reducing liability for negligent hiring. Advocates for background checks also say these screenings help keep the workplace safe – preventing, for example, a sex offender from being hired at a nursery school.

But the practice has come under fire from those who say it can lead to discrimination and decreased job opportunities for the 70 million Americans who have some type of criminal conviction. Advocates argue that a past infraction doesn’t automatically mean someone is not qualified, and hiring more people with a conviction could reduce crime and recidivism.

In a related movement, this month New Jersey became the latest state to pass a “Ban the Box” law. Thirteen states, along with 70 cities and counties now prohibit employers from asking about criminal convictions on job applications. Instead they must wait to inquire about an applicant’s record later in the hiring process.

On Saturday, PBS NewsHour Weekend reports on a related issue – background checks that come back with mistakes, and may cost an individual a job opportunity. You can watch the full report in the video above.

Do you think employers should use background checks? Take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments below. Or, join the conversation on Facebook.