The EEOC continued its crusade to fight discrimination by way of litigation this week. The agency has filed two lawsuits in federal courts in Illinois and South Carolina, accusing BMW and Dollar General of discriminatory use of criminal background checks. These lawsuits open a new chapter in the continued debate over the use of criminal background checks in the hiring process. The commission is claiming that both companies have implemented criminal background screening policies that have the effect of discriminating against black applicants.
Background on the EEOC Guidance
These cases are the first significant cases to test the commission’s new guidance for the use of criminal background checks. The guidance, issued in April of 2012, has sparked controversy and confusion over when and how criminal background checks can and should be used. The guidance came out on the heels of some substantial settlements, including a $3.1M payout by Pepsi, based on the EEOC’s theory that certain policies, while neutral on their face, have the effect of discriminating against blacks and other minorities. The agency announced earlier this year that it would continue to focus on enforcement of the guidance, suing big employers for systemic discrimination by filing “disparate impact” cases. And true to their word, here are two new cases to test their theories.