A BMW subsidiary is on the hook for $1.6 million and must rehire workers as part of a settlement for a race discrimination lawsuit with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A change in BMW Manufacturing's criminal background check policy at the Spartanburg, SC, factory disproportionately affected African American workers, according to the EEOC, and it cost many people their jobs. The automaker has since changed the policy.
According to Automotive News, the suit stemmed from BMW switching logistics contractors at the plant in 2008. As a result, 645 existing workers had to submit revised criminal background checks to keep their jobs. About 100 people didn't meet the new guidelines, according to the EEOC, and they lost their jobs. Around 80 percent of those affected were African American. According to the government agency's complaint, the altered procedures only took into account the category of a crime, not factors like when it occurred or whether the infraction was a misdemeanor or felony.
With the settlement accepted by US District Court, BMW must offer work to the affected employees in this case and as many as 90 African American applicants that the contractor didn't hire because of the rules. The automaker also must offer training in the proper manner for criminal background checks. While there's nothing inherently wrong with investigating workers, "when a criminal background screen results in the disproportionate exclusion of African-Americans from job opportunities, the employer must evaluate whether the policy is job related and consistent with a business necessity," P. David Lopez, the EEOC's General Counsel, said in the agency's release, which you can read below.
BMW to Pay $1.6 Million and Offer Jobs to Settle Federal Race Discrimination Lawsuit
Company's Criminal Background Policy Disproportionately Affected African-American Logistics Workers, EEOC Charged
GREENVILLE, S.C. - The U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina today entered a consent decree ordering BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC (BMW) to pay $1.6 million and provide job opportunities to alleged victims of race discrimination as part of the resolution of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit, filed by EEOC's Charlotte District Office, alleged that BMW excluded African-American logistics workers from employment at a disproportionate rate when the company's new logistics contractor applied BMW's criminal conviction records guidelines to incumbent logistics employees.
More specifically, the complaint alleged that when BMW switched contractors handling the company's logistics at its production facility in Spartanburg, S.C., in the summer of 2008, it required the new contractor to perform a criminal background screen on all existing logistics employees who re-applied to continue working in their positions at BMW. At that time, BMW's criminal conviction records guidelines excluded from employment all persons with convictions in certain categories of crime, regardless of how long ago the employee had been convicted or whether the conviction was for a misdemeanor or felony. According to the complaint, after the criminal background checks were performed, BMW learned that approximately 100 incumbent logistics workers at the facility, including employees who had worked at there for several years, did not pass the screen. EEOC alleged that 80 percent of the incumbent workers disqualified from employment as a result of applying BMW's guidelines were black.
Following an investigation, EEOC filed suit alleging that blacks were disproportionately disqualified from employment as a result of the criminal conviction records guidelines. EEOC sought relief for 56 African-Americans who were discharged. BMW has since voluntarily changed its guidelines.
BMW will pay a total of $1.6 million to resolve the litigation and two pending charges related to the company's previous criminal conviction records guidelines that had been filed with EEOC. In addition to monetary relief, BMW will offer employment opportunities to the discharged workers in the suit and up to 90 African-American applicants who BMW's contractor refused to hire based on BMW's previous conviction records guidelines. BMW also will provide training on using criminal history screening in a manner consistent with Title VII. Additionally, BMW will be subject to reporting and monitoring requirements for the term of the consent decree.
"EEOC has been clear that while a company may choose to use criminal history as a screening device in employment, Title VII requires that when a criminal background screen results in the disproportionate exclusion of African-Americans from job opportunities, the employer must evaluate whether the policy is job related and consistent with a business necessity," said P. David Lopez, EEOC's General Counsel.
"We are pleased with BMW's agreement to resolve this disputed matter by providing both monetary relief and employment opportunities to the logistic workers who lost their jobs at the facility," said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the Charlotte District Office. "We commend BMW for re-evaluating its criminal conviction records guidelines that resulted in the discharge of these workers."
EEOC enforces federal laws against employment discrimination. The Commission issued its first written policy guidance regarding the use of arrest and conviction records in employment in the 1980s. The Commission has since considered this matter in 2008 and updated its guidance in 2012. This is one of the first cases involving the use of arrest and conviction records that EEOC has filed since the Commission issued the updated guidance. More information about EEOC can be found on the agency's website at eeoc.gov.
The Charlotte District Office of EEOC is responsible for investigating charges and litigating EEOC cases in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.