Some employers use criminal background checks as a matter of course before hiring people, regardless of whether the nature of an applicant's criminal past had anything to do with the job they would be doing. As we've discussed before, however, the broad, blind use of criminal background checks may result in a disparate impact against minority applicants, because minorities are disproportionately likely to have criminal records, even when their behavior is no different from their white peers.
When social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter first exploded onto the scene, a lot of people didn't think about them in terms of how they might affect a job search. Some employers, however, seemed avid to find out what embarrassing photos and late-night rants prospective employees might have posted online.
In May, Governor Dayton signed into law a bill that extends Minnesota’s “Ban the Box” law to private employers. “Ban the Box” was first passed in 2009 but only applied to public employers, but it will now require private employers to eliminate check-boxes about criminal convictions from job applications by the end of the year.
The goal of our nation’s laws against discrimination is simply to give qualified people a fair chance at obtaining the employment they’re interested in. All most people want is an opportunity to prove they’re qualified to do the work and, if they are, have an equal shot at getting hired and fair treatment from their employers. Workplace discrimination takes those chances away.
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.
Last July, we discussed a class action lawsuit brought against the clothing chain Wet Seal and its parent company Arden B. because of alleged discrimination against African-American managers and sales staff because they didn't fit the "brand image." For example, one woman was told she had fired been replaced by a white employee after a visiting store executive apparently expressed that the company's brand image would be better served if the store's more visible employees were people "with blonde hair and blue eyes."
Overriding a veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Council just passed a major new piece of employee rights legislation. The new ordinance prohibits all employers in the city from discrimination in hiring based on a job applicant's unemployment status. New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have already passed laws protecting out-of-work applicants from discrimination. Should Minnesota follow suit?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has long held that blanket hiring policies that keep out people with criminal records can easily be used as a pretext for race discrimination. If they're not carefully tailored to meet a legitimate business need, the effect of such policies is to penalize members of minority groups who are caught up in the judicial system far more often -- but for no more reason -- than whites.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a race discrimination settlement with Alliant Techsystems, Inc., a multibillion-dollar defense and aerospace company founded in Minneapolis. The company, which is commonly known as ATK, has agreed to pay $100,000 to a woman the EEOC believes was not hired because of her race.