BMW Must Defend Background Checks

     (CN) – A federal judge in Spartanburg, South Carolina refused to dismiss a lawsuit against BMW Manufacturing Co., that claims the criminal background checks it uses to screen workers given access to its facilities is unfair to blacks.
     In a complaint filed on June 11, 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission raised concerns about how the background checks were applied to 69 black employees of a logistics company, UTi Integrated Logistics Inc., that unloaded and inventoried auto-parts delivered to BMW’s Greer, S.C. manufacturing facility.
     The work requires a minimum of skill, and once the parts are unloaded and documented, they are typically moved about the facility through an automated system, and sometimes by the logistics company’s workers using forklifts.
     In 2008, BMW ended his contract with UTi and signed with another logistics services provided. However, in doing so, the automaker decided it wanted to retain as many UTi employees as possible and offered them the chance apply for positions with the new warehousing firm.
     As part of that process, BMW required the former UTi workers to undergo criminal background checks, and that resulted in dozens being red-flagged by the company because of past criminal convictions.
     BMW’s employment policy excludes anyone who has been convicted of murder, assault and battery, rape, child abuse, domestic violence, weapons violations or the manufacture or distribution of drugs.
     The policy makes no distinction between felony or misdemeanor convictions.
     According to the EEOC, after learning of convictions, BMW responded by denying access to its facilities by anyone who had been in trouble with the law in the past — a total of 88 workers.
     “Claimants were denied access to the BMW facility without any individualized assessment of the nature and gravity of their criminal offenses, the ages of the convictions, or the nature of their respective positions,” the complaint said. “Moreover, they were denied plant access without any assessment or consideration of the fact that many had been workings at the BMW facility for several years without incident for UTi and prior logistics service providers.”
     Of those denied access to the plant because they had a criminal record, 80 percent were black and 18 percent white.
     The EEOC characterized those numbers as “statistically significant.”
     The agency is seeking to have BMW permanently enjoined from continuing to apply its criminal background check policy unless it also adopts an individualized assessment process for those found to have a criminal record.
     It also seeks back pay and other compensation for the impacted workers.
     BMW moved for dismissal of the lawsuit, but on Friday, Senior U.S. District Judge Henry Herlong Jr. denied both that motion, and also the EEOC’s motion for partial summary judgment.
     Herlong also denied motions by the parties to exclude reports and testimony from the EEOC’s statistical expert on disparate impact, and BMW’s expert on job-relatedness and business necessity.
     In a statement, BMW officials said they were disappointed by the rulings, but “ready and prepared” for a trial that will likely begin in late September.
     “BMW has stated throughout the proceedings that our employment policy complies with the letter and spirit of the law and is consistently applied to applicants of all races. Our business, our company culture, and our employment policies are race-neutral as evidenced by BMW’s highly diverse workforce and customers,” the statement said.
     Courthouse News’ Mindy Friddle contributed to this report.

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