Attorney generals in nine states have come together in writing a letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) asking them to reconsider background check lawsuits.
The letter states their concerns over two lawsuits that were filed recently by the commission that claim the employers’ use of criminal background checks for screening potential employees constitutes unlawful employment discrimination under federal law.
The lawsuits were filed against Dollar General and BMW Manufacturing Co. LLC. In the letter, the attorney generals asked that the commission reconsider the lawsuits and the published agency guidance driving the lawsuits that were established in April 2012. These guidelines assert that the use of generally applicable criminal background checks as a bright-line screening tool in the hiring process will often violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VII prohibits intentional discrimination and, in some cases, practices that are not intended to discriminate but have a disproportionally adverse effect on minorities. The agency says criminal background checks have an adverse effect on African-American applicants because they have higher conviction rates.
The attorney generals believe the EEOC has gone well beyond the statute, however, and that the lawsuits are “misguided and a quintessential example of gross federal overreach.” They claim that racial discrimination is the EEOC’s actual concern and believe the agency wants to expand Title VII protection to former criminals, which Congress has never approved.
The lawsuits have re-ignited concerns over issues such as potential federal overreach, the overlap of state and federal law and companies losing their rights to protect customers, workers and assets while trying to adhere to fair hiring practices. The attorney generals hope the letter will be a step in the right direction.
The group of attorney generals was led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Other states to sign on to the letter were Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Utah. Read the letter in its entirety here.