Labor & Employment

Criminal background checks are targeted in two new EEOC suits

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Dollar General Corp. and a BMW manufacturing plant for their use of criminal background checks in hiring or firing.

The EEOC claims the background checks had a disparate impact on African-Americans, report the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Reuters and a press release. The suits are the first filed since the EEOC issued guidance on the issue last year. The guidance said such policies have a disparate impact because African Americans and Hispanics are arrested at a rate that is two to three times their proportion of the general population.

The nationwide suit against Dollar General is based on discrimination claims by two African Americans. One had her job offer revoked because of a 6-year-old conviction for possession of a controlled substance. The other was fired even though she pointed out that a report showing a felony conviction was incorrect, according to the EEOC.

The suit against the BMW plant, located in South Carolina, claims the facility fired 88 workers, including 70 African Americans, after a policy change. The earlier policy barred employment of anyone who had a criminal record within the past seven years. The new one barred workers who had a record at any time.

Reuters cites two EEOC cases filed before last year’s guidance. One suit resulted in a $3.13 million settlement with Pepsi Beverages. Another suit against Freeman Companies, a corporate event and convention company, is pending.

BMW and Dollar General defended their background checks as legal. A statement by Dollar General said its background checks are “structured to foster a safe and healthy environment for its employees, its customers, and to protect its assets in a lawful, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.” BMW said it “believes that it has complied with the letter and spirit of the law and will defend itself against the EEOC’s allegations of race discrimination.”

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