In a complaint filed Tuesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused two major U.S. companies — BMW and Dollar General — of indirectly discriminating against African-American employees and potential employees. How? By using criminal-background checks to screen out workers in a way that violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Washington Post reports:
The commission said BMW effectively fired 70 black employees with criminal histories from a facility in South Carolina, even though many had been there for years. One woman with 14 years under her belt was let go after a misdemeanor conviction surfaced that was more than 20 years old and carried a $137 fine, according to the EEOC's lawsuit.
The agency also alleged that retailer Dollar General revoked job offers to two black women after conducting criminal background checks. In one case, the EEOC said that the records were inaccurate but that Dollar General declined to reconsider the woman's application. The other involved a six-year-old drug conviction.
"It is a fairness issue," said David Lopez, the commission's general counsel. "Litigation is really, truly the last resort."
The growing use of criminal background checks in hiring decisions has become a flash point in the broader debate over 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. A criminal record, advocates say, is an economic scarlet letter that can send otherwise qualified applicants to the bottom of the pile.
Read more at the Washington Post.