BMW agreed to pay $1.6 million to end an EEOC lawsuit claiming background checks at its Spartanburg, S.C., plant discriminated against African American contract workers, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Sept. 8.
In addition, the automaker agreed to provide job opportunities to affected workers.
Facts in the case stem from 2008 when BMW switched logistics contractors, according to court records. It required the new contractor to perform background checks on all existing logistics employees, who were required to re-apply for their jobs. Approximately 100 didn’t pass the background checks — including employees who had worked on the site for several years.
BMW’s criminal records guidelines excluded all employees in certain categories of crime, regardless of how long ago the convicted occurred or whether it was for a misdemeanor or felony, according to the EEOC. And, it alleged 80% of the incumbent workers who were disqualified were black, and that black workers were impacted at a disproportionate rate.
The EEOC filed suit in June 2013 to seek relief for 56 black employees who were discharged.
“EEOC has been clear that while a company may choose to use criminal history as a screen device in employment, Title VII requires that when a criminal background screen results in the disproportionate exclusion of African-Americans from job opportunities, the employer must evaluate whether the policy is job related and consistent with a business necessity,” said P. David Lopez, EEOC’s general counsel.
BMW has since changed its background check guidelines.