BMW to Pay $1.6 Million; Plus Offer Jobs to Settle Federal Race Discrimination Suit
Special to the Outlook from Trice Edney News Wire
The U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina today entered a consent decree ordering BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC (BMW) to pay $1.6 million and provide job opportunities to alleged victims of race discrimination as part of the resolution of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The lawsuit, filed by EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, alleged that BMW excluded African-American logistics workers from employment at a disproportionate rate when the company’s new logistics contractor applied BMW’s criminal conviction records guidelines to incumbent logistics employees.
More specifically, the complaint alleged that when BMW switched contractors handling the company’s logistics at its production facility in Spartanburg, S.C., in the summer of 2008, it required the new contractor to perform a criminal background screen on all existing logistics employees who re-applied to continue working in their positions at BMW. At that time, BMW’s criminal conviction records guidelines excluded from employment all persons with convictions in certain categories of crime, regardless of how long ago the employee had been convicted or whether the conviction was for a misdemeanor or felony.
According to the complaint, after the criminal background checks were performed, BMW learned that approximately 100 incumbent logistics workers at the facility, including employees who had worked there for several years, did not pass the screen. EEOC alleged that 80 percent of the incumbent workers disqualified from employment as a result of applying BMW’s guidelines were Black.
Following an investigation, EEOC filed suit alleging that Blacks were disproportionately disqualified from employment as a result of the criminal conviction records guidelines. EEOC sought relief for 56 African-Americans who were discharged. BMW has since voluntarily changed its guidelines.
BMW will pay a total of $1.6 million to resolve the litigation and two pending charges related to the company’s previous criminal conviction records guidelines that had been filed with EEOC. In addition to monetary relief, BMW will offer employment opportunities to the discharged workers in the suit and up to 90 African-American applicants who BMW’s contractor refused to hire based on BMW’s previous conviction records guidelines. BMW will also provide training on using criminal history screening in a manner consistent with Title VII. Additionally, BMW will be subject to reporting and monitoring requirements for the term of the consent decree.
“EEOC has been clear that while a company may choose to use criminal history as a screening 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.
“We are pleased with BMW’s agreement to resolve this disputed matter by providing both monetary relief and employment opportunities to the logistic workers who lost their jobs at the facility,” said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the Charlotte District Office. “We commend BMW for re-evaluating its criminal conviction records guidelines that resulted in the discharge of these workers.”