Is it discriminatory if an employer does not hire anyone with a particular criminal conviction, regardless of that person’s race, gender, religion, or other protected characteristic? According to the EEOC’s April 2012 Enforcement Guidance, it might be. But in a July 24, 2013 letter sent to EEOC Commissioner Jacqueline Berrien and the four EEOC Board Members, nine state Attorneys’ General (AGs) disagree. The AGs chastise the EEOC for filing recent lawsuits against BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC and Dolgencorp (Dollar General), in which the EEOC alleges that these employers violated Title VII’s disparate impact prohibition by using a bright-line screening policy that rejected all individuals with past convictions in certain categories of crimes, such as murder, assault, reckless driving and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The letter then criticizes the EEOC’s April 2012 Enforcement Guidance on Arrest and Conviction Records, stating that the EEOC’s policy guidance incorrectly applies the law and constitutes an unlawful expansion of Title VII. The AGs argue that if Congress wishes to protect former criminals from employment discrimination, it can amend the law, but it is not the EEOC’s role to expand the protections of Title VII under the guise of preventing racial discrimination.
The Republican state AGs from Colorado, Montana, Utah, Kansas, Nebraska, West Virginia, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia joined in this missive to say “enough is enough” on the EEOC’s background check lawsuits. Citing the burden on businesses to undertake more individualized assessments of an applicant’s criminal history, the AGs urge the EEOC to rescind its April 2012 Enforcement Guidance and dismiss the lawsuits against Dollar General and BMW. Not likely, but it may get the attention of federal lawmakers who may try to rein in the EEOC’s position on this issue.
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