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EEOC sues BMW, Dollar General for biased background checks

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in Employment Background Check,Human Resources

The EEOC has filed separate lawsuits against car manufacturer BMW and the Dollar General retail chain, alleging that the companies’ criminal background check policies illegally resulted in employees being fired and others being screened out for employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The EEOC takes the position that many criminal background checks have a disparate discriminatory impact against minority employees. It issued guidance last year that greatly limits how far background checks can go without violating the law.

Read details on the EEOC guidance in "EEOC urges caution on criminal background checks."

In the suit against BMW, the EEOC alleges that background checks disproportionately screened out black workers employed by a contractor that provides warehouse services at BMW’s South Carolina factory.

When BMW restructured its relationship with the contractor, it required much stricter background checks than before. Several long-time contract employees were fired after the checks uncovered convictions dating back many years.

The Dollar General lawsuit takes up the case of two rejected black applicants. One of them, who applied to be a clerk, had a conditional job offer pulled after the chain discovered a drug conviction dating back six years. The other candidate was rejected for what turned out to be an erroneous record of a conviction.  

Both lawsuits were brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, as well as retaliation. The suits seek back pay, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.

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