EEOC Lawsuit: BMW and Dollar General Aren't Racist For Using Background Checks


The ever-vigilant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is now suing BMW and Dollar General for practices they say are disproportionately screening out African Americans from jobs. BMW was hit with a discrimination lawsuit on Tuesday, June 11, after the company refused to rehire 88 employees who had prior criminal convictions, 70 of whom were black. The nationwide lawsuit is being filed by the EEOC on behalf of two rejected black applicants.

According to the EEOC, BMW switched contractors at its South Carolina plant in 2008 and instructed employees of the old contractor who had been working at the site to reapply with the new firm. This new firm ran background checks on the employees, 88 of whom were denied rehire. Because 70 of those were black, the EEOC says that BMW violated the Civil Rights Act "by utilizing a criminal conviction policy that disproportionately screened out African-Americans," according to spokeswoman Christine Nazer. The Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination, not discrimination of hiring because you have prior criminal convictions; this doesn't stop the EEOC from alleging that BMW refused hiring based on race (even though the same black applicants had already been hired before).

The EEOC says that the background check policy "results in a disparate impact against blacks." It also complains that BMW's policy has no time limit with regard to convictions. The policy is a blanket exclusion without individualized assessment of the nature and gravity of the crimes or the ages of the conviction.

… So? It is a private company's right to not hire based on criminal convictions, no matter how much amount of time has passed. The EEOC does not specify how much time must go by before convictions are no longer relevant. It is up to the discretion of employers. EEOC policy states "An arrest record may be used as evidence of conduct upon which an employer makes an employment decision. An employer may deny employment opportunities to persons based on any prior conduct which indicates that they would be unfit for the position in question, whether that conduct is evidenced by an arrest, conviction or other information provided to the employer."

It is ridiculous that these days a company cannot make decisions about their own hiring of employees without being threatened with a lawsuit. BMW and Dollar General have every right to deny rehiring of employees who failed a background check. Simply because African-Americans have a higher criminal conviction rate does not mean that running background checks and hiring based off of them is in any way violating their rights or constituting unfair hiring practices. There were 18 other non-black employees who were refused rehiring as well. Some social science research actually suggests that use of criminal background checks may actually lead to increased hiring of African-Americans. Employers barred from checking criminal histories may be inclined to wrongfully use race as a proxy for criminal history.

In a statement, BMW said it "believes that it has complied with the letter and spirit of the law and will defend itself against the EEOC's allegations of race discrimination." This lawsuit is just another example of government forcing its way into businesses and wasting taxpayer money in an effort to forcefully try and make everything seem fair. Hiring process for companies should not be changed just to benefit one racial group. The EEOC needs to stop wasting our taxpayer money on frivolous lawsuits against these companies and better spend its time defending people who actually had their rights violated.