BMW sued for alleged racial discrimination
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against a BMW manufacturing plant in South Carolina over their use of criminal background checks to screen out job applicants or fire employees. The agency claims the practice discriminated against African-Americans, who have higher arrest and conviction rates than whites.
The lawsuits are the first since the agency issued revised guidance in 2012 to warn employers against using overly broad criminal checks in a way that could limit job opportunities for people with past convictions. The Commission said it wanted to reduce barriers to employment for those with past criminal records who “have been held accountable and paid their dues.”
The EEOC alleged that BMW’s policy affected dozens of employees working for a contractor that staffed a BMW warehouse in Spartanburg, S.C. The contractor’s policy was not to employ anyone with a criminal record within the past seven years. When a new contractor took over the company, BMW ordered a new round of criminal background checks and fired anyone with a criminal record from any year. Of the 88 workers fired, 70 were black. Some had worked for BMW — through the contractor — for more than a decade, the EEOC alleged in a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Spartanburg. The commission claimed the BMW policy is a “blanket exclusion” without any regard for the nature and gravity of the crimes, how old they are, or whether they are relevant to the type of work being performed.
The EEOC says it attempted to resolve the case through settlement before filing lawsuits. It is seeking back pay for the rejected applicants and for those fired, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.
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