Dollar General sued over background check practice

EEOC says the checks have a disparate impact on black applicants

Dollar General Corp. may want to rethink its standard practice of conducting background checks on potential employees.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against the discount retailer, claiming the practice has a negative impact on black applicants.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Dollar General instituted the background check policy—which the commission refers to as “illegal”—in 2004.

“People who have been convicted of crimes and have paid their ‘debt to society,’ eventually ought to have a fair shot in the job market -- especially if the conviction was years earlier and had nothing to do with the job they seek,” John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s Chicago-area office, said in a statement.

Under Dollar General’s background check policy, the company conducts the check after the applicant is offered a job. A pass/fail is then communicated to the store’s manager via email.

According to the EEOC, citing data it received from Dollar General, the retailer made 344,300 conditional job offers to potential employees between January 2004 and April 2007. Seventy-five percent of those offers were to non-black candidates—7 percent of those offers to non-black applicants were rescinded, while 10 percent of the offers made to blacks were rescinded.

“The gross disparity in the rates at which black and non-black conditional employees were discharged on account of defendant’s criminal background check policy is statistically significant,” the EEOC complaint said in its complaint.

The EEOC is asking the court to bar the practice, as well as require the company to offer equal employment opportunities to black applicants. The commission also seeks a monetary award for the rejected applicants.

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