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ARC: HOW COMPANIES CAN PROPERLY CONDUCT CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS ON WORKERS AND POTENTIAL HIRES

EEOC sues BMW, Dollar General units over criminal background checks

EEOC Criminal Background Check Lawsuit

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed lawsuits against units of BMW Group and Dollar General Corp. for their use of criminal background checks, the agency said Tuesday.

The EEOC said in a statement that Spartanburg, S.C.-based BMW Manufacturing Co. L.L.C. and Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based Dolgencorp. L.L.C., a Dollar General subsidiary, were charged with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by implementing and utilizing criminal background check policies that resulted in some employees being fired and others being screened out for employment.

The BMW lawsuit relates to its use of a contractor, Columbia, S.C.-based UTi Integrated Logistics Inc., that provides logistics services including warehouse and distribution assistance, transportation services and manufacturing support. When UTi ended its contract with BMW in 2008, the unidentified new contractor was told by BMW to perform new criminal background checks on UTi workers who were re-applying to continue their work at BMW, the EEOC said in the statement.

UTi's policy had been to limit criminal background checks to convictions within the prior seven years. BMW's policy for its contractor has no time limit with regard to convictions and is a blanket exclusion without any individualized assessment of factors, including the nature and gravity of the crimes, according to the EEOC.

After the new contractor performed the new criminal background checks, it discovered several UTi employees who had criminal convictions in violation of BMW's policy. They were terminated and denied rehire, although many had worked at the BMW facility for years, the EEOC said.

In the Dollar General case, the lawsuit charges that the retailer conditions all of its job offers on criminal background checks, which results in a disparate impact against African-Americans.

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The EEOC said one of the applicants who had filed a charge with the agency had revealed she had a six-year-old conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Her conditional employment offer was revoked, allegedly because Dollar General's practice was to use her type of conviction as a disqualification factor for 10 years, the EEOC said.

Another applicant who filed an EEOC charge was fired by Dollar General although, according to the EEOC, the conviction records check report that indicated she had a felony conviction was wrong.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees on account of their race,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien in a statement. “Since issuing its first written policy guidance in the 1980s regarding the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions, the EEOC has advised employers that under certain circumstances, their use of that information to deny employment opportunities could be at odds with Title VII.”

BMW said in a statement it cannot comment on the specifics of the EEOC complaint because of the pending litigation. However, it added, “BMW 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.

“BMW is a global company with employees in more than 140 countries around the world. We have a strong culture of nondiscrimination as evidenced by the company's highly diverse workforce.”

“The BMW plant in South Carolina employs thousands of people, and providing a safe work environment is one of the company's highest priorities.”

Dollar General said in a statement, “Dollar General is an equal opportunity employer and prohibits discrimination in its hiring and employment practices. Like most retailers and other employers, Dollar General has a policy of using criminal background checks to determine if an individual meets its criteria for employment. Dollar General's criminal background check process is structured to foster a safe and healthy environment for its employees, its customers, and to protect its assets in a lawful, reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner.”

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