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BMW settles federal race discrimination lawsuit

EEOC to BMW: There's a formula for this, and you got it wrong.

Here's how it works. You are fully entitled to conduct criminal background checks on prospective employees. When you do, though, and such investigations start resulting in disproportionately high exclusions of workers who comprise a protected category under federal law, you'd better have a rational explanation for the disparity.

As noted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's general counsel, that means that you "must evaluate whether [company] policy is job related and consistent with business necessity."

Federal regulators who determined such was not the case regarding BMW's screenings that barred high numbers of African-Americans from employment at one manufacturing facility filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the auto giant in 2013. That case settled last week, with BMW agreeing to pay $1.6 million in back pay and offer new employment opportunities to scores of black workers who were denied jobs owing to the background-check policy, which EECO stated violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of six black plaintiffs who had formally filed a grievance with the EEOC. More than 60 other denied applicants were eventually included as class members in the complaint.

BMW has consistently denied any discriminatory intent, with officials pointing to the company's "large and highly diverse workforce." The company noted the settlement condition that, while new job offers will be extended to affected litigants, those persons must still pass a criminal background check.

The EEEOC is on board with that, provided that the investigations conducted on prospective workers routinely pass the above-stated "consistent with business necessity" test.

Source: USA TODAY, "BMW to pay $1.6M, offer job to settle federal bias lawsuit," David Dykes, the Greenville (S.C.) News, Sept. 8, 2015