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Dollar General stores operator Dolgencorp LLC will pay $6 million to settle a class race discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which charged it with denying employment to African-Americans at a significantly higher rate than to white applicants for failing the company’s broad criminal background check.
The EEOC charged Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based Dolgencorp with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the agency’s statement Monday.
One example provided by the EEOC when the case was first filed in 2013 is of the firm revoking its job offer to an applicant after it learned she had a 6-year-old conviction for possession of a controlled substance, a conviction Dollar General used as a disqualification factor for 10 years.
Under terms of a three-year consent decree, in addition to paying the $6 million settlement, if Dollar General chooses to use a criminal background check it must hire a criminology consultant to develop a check based on factors including the time since conviction, the number of offenses, the time and gravity of the offenses and the risk of recidivism.
Among other terms of the decree, the company is also enjoined from discouraging people with criminal backgrounds from applying, from engaging in retaliation and from otherwise discriminating on the basis of race in implementing a criminal history check, the agency said in its statement.
Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago district, said in the statement, “This case is important because Dollar General is not just providing relief for a past practice but for the future as well.
“If the company plans to use criminal history, it must retain a criminologist to develop a fair process. Unlike other background checks based on unproven myths and biases about people with criminal backgrounds, Dollar General’s new approach will be informed by experts with knowledge of actual risk.”
“Dollar General has defended against the allegations raised in this litigation for nearly 15 years, during which time the Company has consistently denied that its use of post-offer criminal background checks unlawfully discriminates against African-Americans on the basis of race,” the company said in a statement.
“Although Dollar General continues to believe the EEOC’s allegations are unfounded, the Company is pleased to have reached a resolution that reinforces its core value of respecting the dignity and differences of others and allows the Company to continue to take reasonable steps to protect both its property and the safety of its customers and employees.”
In August 2018, a federal appeals court affirmed a jury verdict of more than $277,000 to a former diabetic Dollar General worker, who was fired for drinking orange juice to forestall low blood sugar attacks, in a case filed on her behalf by the EEOC.
Observers say two still-pending 2013 cases may directly address the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's policy on criminal background checks in hiring.