The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Dollar General (technically, it sued Dolgencorp, which does business as Dollar General) in Chicago federal court this week, accusing the 10,000-store discount chain of discrimination against African-American job applicants. EEOC's concern, according to its statement, is that the chain ran criminal background checks, which "results in a disparate impact against blacks."
One applicant referenced "was fired by Dollar General although, according to the EEOC, the conviction records check report about her was wrong: she did not have the felony conviction attributed to her. The EEOC said that although she advised the Dollar General store manager of the mistake in the report, the company did not reverse its decision and her firing stood," the EEOC said.
The other applicant cited "was given a conditional employment offer, although she had disclosed a six-year-old conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Her application also showed that she had previously worked for another discount retailer as a cashier-stocker for four years. Nevertheless, her job offer was allegedly revoked because Dollar General's practice was to use her type of conviction as a disqualification factor for 10 years," the EEOC said.
The Washington Post said the issue behind the EEOC lawsuit is called "ban the box," referring to the box that offenders often are required to mark. Seven states have adopted laws that prohibit employers from including questions about criminal history on job applications. Bills are pending in four other states, and at least a dozen local governments have enacted versions of the ban, the Post story said.
The rationale is that once someone has served their time, they should be given a second chance, especially where the position is not directly related to what they were convicted of doing. In retail, though, this is a very difficult situation. The incidence of associates stealing merchandise or cash from their employers—or misusing customer payment card data—is real, and it seems that a criminal background check would be a legitimate and relevant piece of employment screening.
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