US files suit vs BMW Manufacturing for using criminal background checks

Article by Anita Panait, on June 12, 2013

The United States government has filed a lawsuit against BMW Manufacturing Co., a unit of BMW AG, over an alleged discriminatory use of criminal background checks in hiring. According to a complaint filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Spartanburg, South Carolina, BMW Manufacturing used the criminal background checks in a manner that was biased against black workers and job applicants.

The complaint says that BMW Manufacturing used the checks to refuse re-employment to up to 69 black employed at logistical services firm that helped staff its Spartanburg site when they tried to transfer to another logistics company in 2008. EEOC said the claimants were denied access to BMW's site “without any individualized assessment of the nature and gravity of their criminal offenses, the ages of the convictions or the nature of their respective positions."

The EEOC said that one woman who was with BMW for 14 years was laid off, the company citing a misdemeanor conviction over 20 years old and carried only a $137 fine, The Washington Post reported. BMW, however, denied the allegations, saying it complied with all laws. The EEOC issued in 2012 an Enforcement Guidance bulletin advising employers that using a criminal history check to decide on employment matters may violate the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to the EEOC, around 80 percent of the site workers were denied plant access after the background checks were black.  The regulator said it is seeking a court order barring BMW from continuing to employ the checks or any policy that has an unequal impact on blacks without assessing their individual circumstances. EEOC is also seeking money damages. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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