BMW $1.6 Million Settlement with EEOC Sends Red Flags on Broad Criminal Background Screening Policies

BMW Manufacturing Co. LLC reached a $1.6 million settlement with the EEOC over the alleged disparate impact the company’s criminal background screeBMWning process had on African-American job applicants. The settlement, which occurred on September 8 of this year, indicates that employers should avoid overly “broad” or “blanket” screening policies to prevent legal liability.

According to Akin Gump of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners’ (BAPBS’) Government Relation committee, “The BMW settlement stemmed from a two-year-old lawsuit stemming from the company’s background check policy. The key terms of the settlement include BMW agreeing to pay $1.6 million in monetary relief to fifty-six claimants and to offer those claimants who want to return, the opportunity to return to work at the facility. By entering into the consent decree, BMW expressly denies liability and does not admit any wrongdoing.”

The incidents that led to the lawsuits and eventual settlement occurred in 2008 when BMW changed logistic contractors at is Spartanburg, SC, plant. As a result of the switch, BMW required the new contractor to conduct criminal background screenings on all existing logistics workers who reapplied to keep their jobs. A large number of African-American workers were not allowed to keep their jobs because, at the time, BMW’s criminal background screening guidelines barred employment to people with any convictions, a large number of African-American workers were not able to keep their jobs.

According to NAPBS, the consent decree sets forth these key requirements under which:

  • BMW is enjoined from use of the criminal background guidelines that were involved at the time of the incident.
  • BMW and its logistics provider may not decline to hire any job applicant or otherwise disqualify any individual in a logistics position because of “criminal arrests or charges of any type if such arrests or charges did not result in a conviction.”
  • They can, however, postpone an offer of employment if there is a pending charge, pending resolution.
  • BMW and its logistics provider must conduct an individualized assessment if they seek to disqualify any job applicant based on criminal history. Meaning they must provide written notice to the job applicant describing the criminal history which is at issue and an offer to the applicant to explain the conviction and their appropriateness for employment.
  • The above notice must be delivered by “reasonable means” and must afford the job applicant a period of at least 21 days during which time they can contact BMW or the logistics provider before an adverse employment decision is finalized.
  • BMW and its logistics provider must appoint an official to review all final decisions to decline to hire or otherwise disqualify an applicant due to criminal history.

The GSN Solution

A minor mistake, a careless oversight or a small violation may not seem important, but when it comes to the background screening process these trivial errors have cost employers millions of dollars in fines, penalties, judgments, attorney fees and lost time. As a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), Global Safety Network (GSN) understands, follows, and advises our clients on compliance and regulations while establishing a legally defensible process to ensure that even the small errors won’t cost you big bucks. Call GSN today to learn more about our Background Screening Solutions customized for your business and industry.

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