Criminal background checks may be ‘discrimination,’ U.S. says

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued two companies claiming that their use of criminal background checks was illegal because it amounted to discrimination against black employees and job applicants.

In one case, automaker BMW adopted a policy of blocking any employee or contractor with certain criminal convictions from access to its South Carolina facility – regardless of the person’s age at the time of the conviction or the nature of the worker’s duties.

The EEOC claimed that this policy had the effect of screening out black workers – many of whom had previously worked at the facility without a problem, but were denied access after the new background checks uncovered a prior criminal conviction.

The EEOC also sued the Dollar General store chain, claiming that the retailer’s background check policy resulted in nationwide discrimination against black job applicants. Many of these applicants had complained to the feds that they were denied jobs due to incorrect background check results or to long-ago charges that were completely irrelevant to the store clerk positions for which they had applied.