BMW And Dollar General Hit With Major Discrimination Lawsuits Over Background Checks

June 14, 2013  |  

This week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused two major companies of indirectly discriminating against African Americans by using criminal background checks to screen out workers, reports The Washington Post.

According to the commission, BMW fired 70 black employees with criminal histories from a facility in South Carolina despite the fact many of them had been with the company for years. One woman, who had been a 14-year employee with BMW, was dismissed after a misdemeanor conviction surfaced that was more than 20 years old and carried a $137 fine, claims the EEOC’s lawsuit.

Over at retailer Dollar General the commission says they revoked job offers to two black women after conducting criminal background checks. And in one of the cases, the records were incorrect; still Dollar General declined to reconsider the woman’s application, said the EEOC.

The use of criminal background checks in hiring decisions has become an issue of debate in light of high unemployment rates among African Americans. “Not only did blacks lose more jobs and more wealth than other racial groups during the recession, they also have struggled to gain a foothold in the recovery — an issue some community leaders have called the next front in the civil rights movement,” reports WaPo.

EEOC brought the lawsuits under the Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination against job applicants on the basis of race. While the EEOC recognizes that employers are allowed to conduct background checks, the agency claims that the companies’ blanket policies of not hiring candidates with criminal records equaled discrimination against African Americans.

In fact, Justice Department statistics point out that blacks accounted for 37 percent of those behind bars last year, even though they are only 13 percent of the U.S. population. Because of this problem, since the recession, seven states — including Maryland — have adopted laws that prohibit employers from asking questions about criminal history on job applications. And reports the newspaper, bills are pending in four other states, and at least a dozen local governments have already enacted versions of the ban.

Both BMW and Dollar General have denied the allegations.

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