In a first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Tennessee-based Dollar General and a South Carolina manufacturer over the companies’ misuse of criminal background checks. Like many employers, these two companies had blanket policies about hiring people with certain criminal histories. In the Dollar General lawsuit, the EEOC claims specified that the practice was disproportionately affecting black applicants.
According to a report in the Tennessean, the lawsuit is the first by the EEOC since it revised its guidelines on the use of criminal background checks last year. The EEOC now encourages employers to allow for an explanation of prior criminal justice system involvement before a hiring decision is made.
“Overcoming barriers to employment is one of our strategic enforcement strategies,” EEOC spokeswoman Justine Lisser said. “We hope that these lawsuits will further educate the public and the employer community on the appropriate use of conviction records.”
The EEOC hopes that its change in policy will lead to more job opportunities for those who have paid their debt and moved beyond criminal justice system involvement.
The lawsuit cites data provided by Dollar General which shows that blacks are rejected at a higher rate than whites when being considered for employment at Dollar General.