One of the first cases filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) following its 2012 updated guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions has been resolved. Last month, a federal court in South Carolina approved a settlement in which BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC (BMW) agreed to pay $1.6 million and offer jobs to aggrieved African-American former employees and applicants. BMW had already voluntarily changed its criminal conviction policy.
The EEOC filed suit against BMW in 2013 claiming that BMW’s criminal conviction policy was not job related and consistent with business necessity and disproportionately screened out African Americans from employment. BMW used a contractor to provide logistics services at its facility in South Carolina. The workers who provided services to BMW were subject to criminal background checks consistent with the contractor’s policy, which reviewed only convictions from the prior seven years. When BMW switched contractors, the workers were told that they would need to re-apply for employment with the new contractor, and BMW instructed the new contractor to perform criminal background checks on all workers under BMW’s policy. BMW’s criminal convictions policy had no time limitation, excluding from employment all applicants with convictions in certain categories of crimes without regard to whether the conviction was a misdemeanor or felony, the age of the conviction, or the nature or gravity of the individual crime. One hundred incumbent workers, eighty percent of whom were African American, did not pass BMW’s inflexible criminal background check, including many who had worked for BMW for a number of years. All of these workers were denied employment with the new contractor.