The EEOC has been beating the drum against the indiscriminate use of criminal background checks in hiring for more than a year. Now, the employment watchdog is swinging into action with lawsuits against two big companies that it claims misused these checks.

The EEOC claims that at BMW’s auto plant in South Carolina, a number of warehouse employees were fired when BMW applied its overly restrictive policy barring employees with any criminal history. The employees had been originally hired by an independent contractor whose background check policy was less restrictive.

The EEOC had two things against the BMW policy: It had no “statute of limitations” on criminal convictions, and it took into account neither of the nature of the convictions nor of the kinds of jobs the individuals involved were doing.

The EEOC is also suing Dollar General, a 40-state discount store chain. That lawsuit is based on the cases of two rejected applicants. One of them had a six-year-old drug conviction but had worked successfully for four years at another company. The other did not have the felony conviction a background report erroneously attributed to her.

Disparate impact
As the federal anti-discrimination watchdog, the EEOC is concerned with misuse of background checks because, it says, such misuse has a disparate impact on minority applicants and employees. It issued guidance on proper use of such checks in April 2012.

See guidance at www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm

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