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BMW Sued For Racial Discrimination In South Carolina

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Summer is here, and across America, the mercury is climbing. But in Spartanburg, South Carolina, things are a little hotter than usual: yesterday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against BMW, claiming that the automaker discriminated against African American workers there. 

As with most lawsuits, this one is a little messy, but this gist is this:

BMW contracted with a company called UTi for some of its Spartanburg workforce. UTi provided logistics services, which, according to a press release from the EEOC, "included warehouse and distribution assistance, transportation services and manufacturing support".

Like many companies, both BMW and UTi conduct background checks on potential employees. However, UTi looks only at an applicant's record over the last seven years, and it takes into account the nature and severity of any conviction found. So, while murder or kidnapping might be a very big red flag, petty theft or a minor drug conviction might not. 

BMW is not so forgiving. "BMW's policy has no time limit with regard to convictions. The policy is a blanket exclusion without any individualized assessment of the nature and gravity of the crimes, the ages of the convictions, or the nature of the claimants' respective positions."

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When UTi sent workers to BMW's plant in Spartanburg, it screened those workers according to its own policy. But UTi's contract with BMW expired in 2008, and employees were told that they'd have to reapply with the new logistics firm if they wanted to keep working at the plant. That new logistics firm reviewed applicants using BMW's stricter screening process. 

In doing so, many people were not rehired, including quite a few who'd worked at the facility for years.

Now, the EEOC doesn't have a problem with employers screening for previous convictions. That's all well and good.

The problem is that BMW's particular hiring policy -- and that of its new logistics contractor -- raise the specter of racial discrimination because blacks and Latinos face statistically higher rates of conviction and incarceration. EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien explains it like this: 

"Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees on account of their race.... Since issuing its first written policy guidance in the 1980s regarding the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions, the EEOC has advised employers that under certain circumstances, their use of that information to deny employment opportunities could be at odds with Title VII."

In other words, if BMW's new contractor had taken a more nuanced approach to background checks -- one like UTi's that took into account the nature of prior convictions -- the automaker might not be in this mess.

In a statement, BMW said it would fight the EEOC lawsuit, insisting that it has a "strong culture of non-discrimination". We'll keep you posted. 

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Comments (9)
  1. YouAnother example of this White House continuing to assault any form of capitalism in this once great nation. Thank you liberals for destroying this nation.
     
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  2. Typical republican, sees a bogeyman behind every bush.
     
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  3. Another example of this White House continuing to assault any form of capitalism in this once great nation. Thank you liberals for destroying this nation.
     
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  4. How is this racial discrimination? the company is doing fine because they were discriminating based on criminal background checks, not racism.
    The fact that most Latinos and Blacks face higher rates of conviction is coincidental and should not be put above criminal background checks. This policy is absolutely ridiculous.
    Not only are we forced to hire people that sometimes aren't as qualified for a job, but now we're forced to hire criminals too?
     
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  5. Government disproportionately incarcerates some minorities. Then BMW applies a hiring standard to everyone, and gets in trouble, because the government disproportionately incarcerated some minorities. Some minorities were more affected by the BMW hiring standard, universally applied, because the government, had disproportionately incarcerated them.

    Then the government sues BMW for a problem, created by the government, when it disproportionately incarcerated some minorities. So the governments solution the the problem it created, by disproportionately incarcerating minorities, is to sue a private company that is currently hiring, some disproportionately incarcerated minorities. 1st causes; Rampant hatred eventually hurts all Americans.
     
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  6. The EEOC is the real problem. When will race disappear as a question on an application. Then we have a chance to erase discrimination.
     
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  7. Randy, how do these derivatives affect first causes? Real problem or another derivative?
     
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  8. Oh yeah, I see it happen every day ... local, state and federal agency's go out and just randomly pick minorities and lock them up.... it dont have anything to do with them being convicted of a crime ... but hey ... shouldnt they be given a job anyway ... wouldnt you hire a "KNOWN" criminal to come work for you in or around your house ? Dont you want the EEOC to demand that you use a contractor that has a criminal record to work for you ... hasnt the government done enough to destroy the work force of this country and fill our schools with unqualified and undesirable teachers that are set in place to teach an agenda ... Shouldnt you, and the employers of this country hire the best people they can find for the jobs you/they have available ?
     
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  9. Our country has gone to the toilet and way of the old Roman Empire if people BECAUSE OF THEIR RACE can get a pass to work and make $22.00 bucks an hour because their races (Black and Hispanic) are ALLEGEDLY incarcerated at a higher rate than whites! BMW is saying, we don't want people with criminal convictions working for us..period..white, black, brown, green, purple, ect. and they have that right. I am always amazed at the people who want preferential treatment. I am 57 years old and have never been given any benefit by an employer in 40 years, because of my race, and have worked alongside the most wonderful people of diversity you could ever ask to work for. The point is WE ALL WERE HELD TO THE SAME STANDARD WHEN WE WERE HIRED-PERIOD!
     
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