Pepsi Beverages Pays $3.1 Million to Settle Federal Race Discrimination Charges

Washington Post, January 11, 2012

Pepsi Beverages Co. will pay $3.1 million to settle federal charges of race discrimination for using criminal background checks to screen out job applicants—even if they weren’t convicted of a crime.

The settlement announced Wednesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is part of a national government crackdown on hiring policies that can hurt blacks and Hispanics.

EEOC officials said the company’s policy of not hiring workers with arrest records disproportionately excluded more than 300 black applicants. The policy barred applicants who had been arrested, but not convicted of a crime, and denied employment to others who were convicted of minor offenses.

Using arrest and conviction records to deny employment can be illegal if it’s irrelevant for the job, according to the EEOC, which enforces the nation’s employment discrimination laws. The agency says such blanket policies can limit job opportunities for minorities with higher arrest and conviction rates than whites.

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Pepsi Beverage spokesman Dave DeCecco said the company’s criminal background check policy has always been neutral and that the EEOC did not find any intentional discrimination. He said after the issue was first raised in 2006, the company worked with the EEOC to revise its background check process “to create a workplace that is as diverse and inclusive as possible.”

“We are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion and we have been widely recognized for our efforts for decades,” DeCecco said.

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Under the settlement, the company will provide the EEOC with regular reports on its hiring practices and offer antidiscrimination training to its hiring personnel and managers.

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  • Employers can only ask about felony convictions.  They can’t ask about arrests or misdemeanor convictions.  Pepsi got into trouble by going beyond asking about felony convictions.

    But…the civil rights crowd wants employers not even to be able to ask about felony convictions — You got it, disparate impact on blacks.

    The original article says this:

    EEOC officials have said, for example, that an old drunken driving
    conviction may not be relevant to a clerical job, but a theft conviction
    may disqualify someone from working at a bank.

    Unless the drunk driving conviction was a felony, (and in most states, it takes multiple DUIs/DWIs to rise to the felony level), then employers can’t ask about it.

    • Sincerely Concerned

      But what if the drunk driving conviction was a misdemeanor but the person is applying for a driving position of any kind, including say, for a beer distributorship.  It’s relevant.  The federal law is a dumb one, in my opinion.

    • I see a fare amount of job applications each week as part of my job duties, from various employers. Many job applications simply ask have ever been convicted of a crime, excluding minor traffic violations. In parenthesis they elucidate (a DUI is not a minor traffic offense) and thus, one is compelled to list that conviction.
       
      Some applications only ask about felony convictions, while others ask for both misdemeanor and felony convictions. Some use the all-encompassing term “all” convictions. As you know, the law is different in each state in respect to what they can ask and what must be disclosed. In my state, they can ask about any conviction, excluding marijuana convictions that are more than two years old.

    • But employers can google you and check your facebook. If google shows the listing for the arrest from a newspaper report that should count as a negative reference.  Pepsi didn’t ask anything they performed background checks for all arrest records. If you have a choice of 2 employees one has never been arrested and another that has been arrested 12 times for theft which would you want.

  • Using arrest and conviction records to deny employment can be illegal if it’s irrelevant for the job, according to the EEOC
    Criminal history is always relevant–and to more than any given job. Has the system no shame left?

  • Anonymous

    Can’t ask about a criminal record? Then how did Bill Clinton’s Welfare reform act of 1996 pass? As I remember, applicants were given another form to voluntarily fill out asking if they were on foodstamps, welfare or any kind of government assistance AND if they had a criminal record/been recently released. Employers were supposed to give PREFERNCE to those who had a record or been on government assistance. Companies received tax breaks for turning in these papers showing they had hired someone who was on welfare/been a criminal. They probably still do. This is separate from ‘enterprise zones’ which encourage companies to hire those living in certain areas,  i.e. where the census shows there is lots of color on the map,  presumably all in areas inside major city limits.  Isn’t that discrimination against those not meeting these requirements? Then the media is sure to publish many stories on ‘redlining’ while this is going on.
    Seems as though discrimination is always wrong, unless those on the left are doing it. Then it’s A-OK and even a requirement.

  • Most pot possession convictions are misdemeanors.  The only time one gets convicted of a felony for possessing pot (outside of large quantities, implying intent to distribute) is for multiple convictions.  At which time, you’re dealing with a consistent stoner, who probably would not make a good employee anyway.

  • crystal evans

    Just about every employer refuses to hire anyone with a criminal convictions. What is going to happen next? Banks are going to be forced to hire a convicted thief as a bank teller if that person is black or hispanic? Give me a break!

  • How come I had to go through a background check and why was I refused a job because I was a “criminal” at that particular time?

    Whites will never do it but they should file a suit as well.  How many Whites were refused jobs because of past stupid and/or desperate mistakes or even just from having bad credit?

  • Anonymous

    Will personally boycott pepsi products for not taking this case to trial.They have deep pockets to fight these type of  shakedowns that makes a mockery of our Constitution and our Nation of Laws.Freedom of Association should apply to Bussinesses to be free to hire as they please,and homeowners should be allowed to sell their homes to whomever they please.Totally disgusted.Complete garbage.

  • Anonymous

    OK if the crime is relevant to the position, then that is grounds not to hire someone.

    ‘Uh, it seems that Democrat Barack Obama’s
    secretary of the Treasury-designate owed something like $34,000 in back
    taxes when he was picked to head the nation’s financial system.”
    LA Times

    Wouldn’t the crime of tax fraud be relavive to the postion of Secretary of the Treasury?

    I guess it would be alright to have a serial killer, an arsonist, or a rapist as a day care worker since they were never convicted of being a pedophile.

  • Anonymous

    I used to work for a company that PepsiCo owns and they did background checks on everyone.  No exceptions.

    It’s not PepsiCo’s fault that a lot of blacks can’t get their act together.

  • Nevertheless, 1 out 20 Americans between the ages of 15 and 55 have been arrested (and convicted) of possession of small amounts of marijuana. 

    Bullshit.

  • Nevertheless, 1 out 20 Americans between the ages of 15 and 55 have been arrested (and convicted) of possession of small amounts of marijuana. 

    Not true.

  • Anonymous

    If an employee hires criminals, wouldn’t the be responsible for the action of their employes and could be sued for criminal action by their employes?

  • Employers can google you and check your facebook, even test for drugs. If google shows the listing for the arrest from a newspaper report that should count as a negative reference. Pepsi didn’t ask anything they performed background checks that showed all arrest records not just felonies. If you have a choice of 2 employees one has never been arrested and another that has been arrested 12 times for minor theft which would you want?  If you are looking for someone to fill soda vending machines in  middle schools would you hire a sex offender for it? An interviewee he says he is a team player but was arrested for beating up a co-worker before. A woman explains a couple year gap on the resume by saying she took care of someone but she was in prison during that time.

    This shows why there is a stronger correlation between crime and poverty than poverty and crime.

  • SKIP

    EEOC! there’s anothe acronym we can do without. EEOC means Everyone Employ Only Coloreds.