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The EEOC lost a suit against BMW, alleging that BMW violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by implementing and utilizing a criminal background policy. The policy resulted in employees being fired and others being screened out for employment. The suit was dismissed due to fatal flaws in the EEOC’s expert report and the acknowledgement that there are legitimate reasons for conducting criminal background checks.
In past months, the EEOC had warned against the use of criminal background checks, noting that company policies that automatically reject candidates with criminal records are illegal. The EEOC states that employees should consider the following criteria when making hiring decisions:
The EEOC claimed that BMW screened out African-American employees, using a blanket policy created in 1994 that denies facility access to employees and contract workers with certain criminal convictions. While many companies have a time frame that the potential employee must have passed to be applicable for hiring (often 7 years since sentencing), BMW does not. BMW’s exclusion does not take into effect the gravity of past crimes, the age of the convictions, or the nature of the prospective positions.
The suit emerged when BMW was renewing a contract with UTi Integrated Logistics, which provided logistic services to BMW. BMW requested that upon the renewal, the contractors submit to a new criminal background check. As a result, several employees were fired and denied rehire, despite the fact that the employees had worked at BMW for many years.
The EEOC criminal background check was dismissed due to a variety of findings, including the factual failings of the suit. It was found that the EEOC itself uses criminal background checks for many of its employment positions. The EEOC also admitted that there is sometimes essential, rationale, and legitimate reasons for criminal background checks, expanding that factually, in some occasions, ignoring criminal history, thus exposing employers to the potential liability for criminal and fraudulent acts.
While the BMW case was dismissed, this suit highlights the EEOC’s focus on screening practices. It is important to carefully craft company policies on criminal background checks to protect companies from potentially harmful employees and from the ire of the EEOC and potential lawsuits. To learn more about this case read about the original suit, as well as the final decision.