Potential Changes New Jersey Jury Selection Hold Lessons for Employers

Is your business doing everything possible to prevent bias from infecting the hiring process and the workplace?

Everyone has biases and perceptions shaped by our experiences of life, and not all bias is inherently harmful—but in the context of employment, bias towards individuals is something you should avoid at all costs. Not only does adhering to unfair biases based on personal characteristics potentially exclude very talented individuals, but it can also expose your business to legal threats. The EEOC takes complaints of unfair hiring very seriously and won't hesitate to launch a months-long investigation into your business if they believe a claim may be valid.

Also, preventing and reducing the impact of bias requires more than mere positive thinking. It takes concrete action. In New Jersey, the state's government is deep into considerations that would take such action to reduce the impacts of bias in the selections of juries. The efforts come following a high-profile incident in 2021. 

During jury selection for a then-upcoming murder trial, prosecutors attempted to remove a Black man from consideration due to his experiences with crime and close relations in law enforcement. However, the strike was denied—so prosecutors ran a background check. Upon seeing that the man had an active warrant, he was stricken from the jury pool again, this time for good. The warrant was never served and was later dismissed.

Following the controversy, a large working group was convened to make recommendations to prevent such future incidents. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the man had been unfairly barred from serving and that prosecutors may have displayed an "implicit or unconscious bias" against the would-be juror because of his race.

This concept of implicit bias is an interesting and important one for employers to consider. Across many industries, a greater awareness of this harmful tendency has begun to develop. Though it differs from prejudice applied with malice, the results are the same: unconscious bias leads to negative outcomes and fewer opportunities for minority groups.

How can your business improve its stance on fighting back against bias? Implementing proactive policies and engaging in more training are the answers. Look to New Jersey's recommended changes for an example. To reduce the impact of bias, courts may choose to restrict how it handles juror challenges. The courts could pay jurors more, increasing the number of low-income jurors who would otherwise lose money in the process. Another suggestion involves making changes to allow those with specified criminal convictions to serve on juries.

Look at your own hiring processes. Are you making choices that could exclude otherwise qualified individuals? Ask yourself: what unconscious biases might we display in our processes? By taking a closer look at how you operate and considering how you could expand opportunities safely in the future, you can work towards a more inclusive, diverse, and effective workplace. For more information and the right tools to empower safe hiring processes, backgroundchecks.com can help. Find out more today.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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