City of Decatur Modifies Employee Background Checks in Response to ACLU

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
February 26, 2001 12:00 am

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DECATUR, GA–In response to inquiries from the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, city officials here will alter highly intrusive background checks on people who work in bars and restaurants where alcohol is served, the ACLU announced today.

Until recently, anyone wishing to work in a food service establishment serving alcohol was required to disclose, and permit the City to inquire into, “any and all aspects of [his] life.”

“The old disclosure requirements were highly intrusive and completely unrelated to any legitimate government concerns,” said Robert L. Tsai, a Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Georgia, which acted in response to complaints from employees. “There was a significant potential for abuse.”

According to Tsai, the City was particularly interested in information related to a food service worker’s employment history, his shopping habits at “druggists, drug stores, pharmacies and other stores,” his “physical and mental condition,” and tax records. Worse, a food service worker was forced to release the City from liability for misuse of this information.

After receiving several complaints, the ACLU raised concerns with city officials that the regulations violated workers’ right to privacy.

The City promptly reevaluated the policies in light of the issues raised by the ACLU of Georgia and recently decided to amend its policies: now, a food service employee need only provide valid identification and submit to a criminal background check.

“This is a good solution, and we commend the City of Decatur for respecting its residents’ right to privacy,” Tsai said.

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