Employment Checks Fuel Race Complaints

Scott Thurm, Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2013

Federal regulators Tuesday accused two large employers of improperly using criminal-background checks in hiring, the latest salvo in a contentious debate over whether such screening amounts to discrimination against black applicants.

In complaints filed in federal courts in Illinois and South Carolina, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said two companies discount retailer Dollar General Corp. DG +0.22% and a U.S. unit of German auto maker BMW AGBMW.XE +0.90% generally barred potential employees based on the criminal checks, when they should have reviewed each applicant. The commission said the policies had the effect of discriminating against black applicants.

The suits underscore increasing government scrutiny of criminal and credit checks, which are widely used to screen job applicants. Some 92% of employers use criminal-background checks for some or all job openings, according to a 2010 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management.

The EEOC issued guidance to employers last year, shortly after a unit of PepsiCo Inc. PEP -0.16% agreed to pay $3.1 million and change its screening policy to settle charges of discriminating against blacks by improperly using criminal checks. In some cases, the Pepsi bottling unit screened out applicants who had been arrested but never convicted.

The guidelines don’t bar the use of criminal checks, but urge employers to consider the crime, its relation to an applicant’s potential job, and how much time that has passed since the conviction. The guidelines also recommend that employers review each case individually, and allow applicants to show why they should be hired despite a conviction.

People convicted of crimes don’t get special protections under civil-rights laws, but the EEOC can sue if it believes information about prior convictions is being used to discriminate against a racial or ethnic group.

The legality of a screening test is “going to depend on what they’re doing for you and what the nature of the conviction was,” said Ronald S. Cooper, a former general counsel of the EEOC who is now a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP. “It’s a hard standard to meet and the EEOC means it to be.”

A growing number of states and cities regulate the use of background checks for employment. The issue gained prominence during the recession, when employers were deluged by job applicants and some people complained they couldn’t get past screening tests.


The commission said Dollar General revoked conditional employment offers for 10% of its black applicants, but only 7% of its nonblack applicants, between January 2004 and April 2007. With more than 344,000 applicants involved, the numbers created an improper “gross disparity” based on race, the commission said. The company has more than 90,000 employees.

In its suit, the commission says Dollar General uses a formula including the crime and how old it is to decide whether to reject an applicant. The commission said the policy is illegal because it isn’t sufficiently job-related and doesn’t consider individual circumstances. One Illinois woman was dismissed three days after the background check showed a six-year-old drug-possession conviction. The commission says Dollar General still uses the same policy.



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  • Homo_Occidentalis

    Looking at the comments section just gave me some hope. Even on a neocon paper like the WSJ the readers are exhibiting dangerous signs of common-sense outrage over this.

  • Trust me, no Chicago resident has been dismissed for just a six year old drug possession conviction.
    The commission said Dollar General revoked conditional employment offers for 10% of its black applicants, but only 7% of its nonblack applicants, between January 2004 and April 2007. With more than 344,000 applicants involved, the numbers created an improper “gross disparity” based on race, the commission said.

    90,00 employees. Lets figure a 33% turn over ratio. 30,000 new hires each year. 15,000 white, 15,000 black.
    So they would rescinded offers for 1500 blacks and 1050 whites. BFD.

  • People convicted of crimes don’t get special protections under
    civil-rights laws, but the EEOC can sue if it believes information about
    prior convictions is being used to discriminate against a racial or
    ethnic group.

    The problem is that EEOC is using the mere fact of racial differences in dismissals and hiring and firing as prima facie evidence that there is racial discrimination going on. The good ole disparate impact insanity.

    • MBlanc46

      Equality of outcome has almost completely replaced equality of opportunity as a legitimate function of government.

    • Nathanwartooth

      3% is insanely small.

      If the disparity had been 1% or .5% would they be complaining?

      I can tell you one thing, if more Whites were being discriminated against no one would be saying anything.

      But really 3% is super small compared to how many more Black criminals there are.

  • JackKrak

    I wonder how many people with criminal records the EEOC has on its payroll.

  • Oil Can Harry

    Here in New York State they fingerprint those applying to be school bus drivers to see if they have a crime record, particularly for child molestation.

    Hopefully, the heroic Obama regime will put an end to this discriminatory anti-pedophile profiling.

    • Alexandra1973

      I just joined my church’s bus ministry and I had to sign a paper saying I haven’t been arrested for anything. I also checked a box indicating it’s okay to do a background check on me. I have nothing to hide.

      • Puggg

        I hear that if you sign a hip hop record deal, you undergo a criminal background check – To make sure you have been convicted of a felony.

        • Chief Keef be workin on dat! Also workin on his degree in pris’n sex.

        • The__Bobster

          Dat gibs yo street cred, nome sane?

        • borogirl54

          After all, to be a rapper, a criminal record gives you street cred.

        • Rapper Loses Record Deal After Secret Life Exposed

          NEWARK, N.J. (Fake News Network) – Hip Hop Artist Zlik-G-Murder was released from his recording contract earlier today, after a number of scandalous photos were published last weekend on the gossip website Exhaling Gun.

          Newark native Zlik-G-Murder, whose real name Sebastian D’Andre Montgomery IV, 27, was signed with the hip-hop label ExtraScope in 2007. His first release, entitled Fackin Da’Hoes, did not have the sales that label executives projected, and none of the three singles released from the album made the Top 20 of the Williamboard rap and hip hop hit chart. Montgomery was about to begin studio recordings for his second release, tentatively entitled Yardbird, until today.

          The Exhaling Gun photos clearly show that Montgomery not only has an overground existence as a husband in a monogamous relationship with his wife, and that their consummation of the marriage was the end of both of their virginities, a revelation more damaging than that from the set of paparazzi-taken photos is that Montgomery has two children, all by his wife, and that he knows who his children are, and his children know who their father is, and most damning of all, they both have their father’s surname. Perhaps the final nails in the coffin of his rap career are TEG’s document searches that shows that Montgomery sunlights as a person with an actual job, and has no felony or misdemeanor criminal convictions.

          Among other vicious rumors that FNN was unable to substantiate but promulgated in TEG’s story is that Montgomery has a high school diploma as a result of four consecutive school years of almost perfect attendance while he was a teenager, a credit rating, and that his gainful employment was with a northern New Jersey law enforcement agency.

          “We are glad that this all came to life,” ExtraScope CEO D. Piddy told FNN. “I can’t say anything for sure until I talk with our Illegal Department, but this behavior is almost a certain violation of the immorals clause in his contract. I myself got suspicious when Zlikkey didn’t go out on the campaign trail for Barack Obama last fall.”

          • OlderWoman

            That’s hilarious.

  • dd121

    Is there any business out there that will risk resisting these marxists?

  • A Freespeechzone

    Again, I say, employers MUST manage risk and when dishonesty can literally destroy a business, to NOT do a background check increases risk.

    Note that the government wants to punish employers for being responsible and trying to manage risk by forcing them to take on, in some cases, guaranteed theft that could damage a business beyond repair.

    Will the government make the business owner whole if he/she is damaged by hiring a jailbird?

    This is just another effort by Obama to destroy the private sector. Defy him en mass, the courts, etc. can’t punish EVERYONE.

    Remember that adherence to laws is optional—look at immigration laws; few, if any are enforced.


    • The__Bobster

      I can’t see why a White man would want to start a business today.

  • Really, no one has the guts to after the EEOC? Don’t sue the EEOC itself. Go after the actual individual who is obviously breaking the law.

  • Well, I say, “Screw them.” I had some rough times too, but I didn’t turn to drugs and criminal behavior. That criminal record won’t follow you to some countries. I suggest they try their luck over there.

    • IstvanIN

      If a man pays his debt to society and cleans himself up he deserves a second chance. No white man should be thrown on the junk heap without being given a shot at redemption.

      • The__Bobster

        Trust, but verify that he’s not still hanging around with his old crew.

  • bigone4u

    Too bad Obama was not arrested for his cocaine use and dealing. Oh wait, I forgot. There are no checks to be President of the New Amerika–not even a check for a valid birth certificate or Social Security number.

  • The__Bobster

    The commission said the policies had the effect of discriminating against black applicants.

    So the EEOC admits that Bantus are more crime-prone?

  • cancerous bananna

    Heard a rumour here in NS Canada about employees pissing in Pepsi and a recall for an undisclosed reason. A black guy told me as I was putting a case in my cart.. he was buying Coke.. Now I believe him. I decided against the pop and got a case of Alexander Keith’s instead. May taste like piss, but at least it isn’t!

  • OlderWoman

    The guy who smokes weed or who drinks alcohol could steal for the money to fund their habit.

  • IstvanIN

    I am only concerned about people of European extraction. Africans, Asians, etc. can worry about there own.

  • Ella

    These liberals will have a remote location and use a helicopter top arrive at their 25,000 – 45,000 square foot home with fantastic security. They would never shop at a General Dollar like working /middle class persons. These companies have a right to skip high-risk types due to possible theft, credit scams and even violent-prone. You cannot make the public an experiment if they’ve been “cured.” They can drive trucks or something less visible.

  • Non Humans

    Here we go again with nonhumans not wanting to play by the same rules as everyone else or being otherwise too stupid to have a grain of foresight.
    Being discriminated against in hiring processes because of a criminal record is par for course in today’s job market. It’s not anything new either. Said discrimination, imho, is simply a residual part of the punishment for being stupid enough to commit the crime in the first place.
    Since nonhumans have a higher tendency to commit crimes, it is only fitting that they are better suited for menial jobs that have less responsibility, importance, and ultimately pay. It’s not like abiding most laws is terribly dis-similar from common sense.
    On a side-note, my ex-wife was a hiring manager for a large personnel outsourcing company. From time-to-time she would handle large clients and I would help her screen and review the resumes. Any Dontravius,Trashonda, Latreenafiddledeedequa, Jayden, or other assinine names that were obviously those of nonhumans, got through the shredder faster than the drive-thru at Chik-Fil-A.

  • MarcB1969

    This is just “disparate impact” taken to it’s logical conclusion. What if your industry requires someone be bonded? Are employers are supposed to unknowingly hire convicted felons and send them out to jobs with housewives who are home alone? I’ll stop doing background checks on my prospective employees/contractors as soon as the federal government stops doing them on their own.

  • I’m a convicted federal felon on the Terrorist Watch List. A nice retired lady across from me (I live in a townhouse complex) had me move her piano a month ago. She paid me and another neighbor – who is massively tattooed and looks every bit the criminal he is not – each with a nice glass of whiskey. I would no more hurt her than I would my own mother.

    I am an ex-con, but I am not a criminal.

  • Apparently I do not.