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Criminal background checks and employment discrimination

A retailer called Dollar General and BMW have been accused of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. BMW has been accused of automatically excluding prospective employees allegedly convicted of a crime. The company has also been accused of not taking into consideration the nature of the supposed crimes.

The accusations against Dollar General assert that the company's policy of hiring for every position based first upon a criminal background check "results in a disparate impact against blacks." We will need to wait and see what the outcome of these lawsuits will be that were filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday, June 12th, but there has been a growing trend across the nation to bring a stop to these sorts of practices.

Legislation has been passed in a number of states disallowing companies to perform criminal background checks upon a job applicant until that individual at least first receives a job interview. But though Minnesota was the ninth state to pass into law "ban the box" laws concerning these background checks, the above lawsuits appear to demonstrate that the use of improper criminal background checks in an employment setting are still widely occurring.

For whatever reason, blacks are still twice as likely to be unemployed as are white people. Though there may be many different reasons for this disparity, poverty and lack of earning opportunities goes hand-in-hand with higher crime rates. Forcing these same individuals to pass a criminal background check before becoming employed only aggravates these circumstances.

Organizations like the EEOC and attorneys representing victims of employment discrimination do need to remind companies that state and federal regulations do apply to them. Businesses that engage in commerce need to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.

Source: Think Progress, "Two Companies Charged With Racial Discrimination in Hiring Practices," Joseph Diebold, June 13, 2013

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