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Sheetz unlawfully rejected Indigenous, Black candidates due to criminal records, EEOC alleges

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Dive Brief:

  • Maryland-based Sheetz locations disproportionately screened out American Indian/Alaska Native, Black and multiracial applicants during the hiring process, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has alleged.
  • According to a complaint the agency filed April 17, the company maintained a “longstanding practice” of screening out candidates due to prior justice system involvement, “including but not limited to convictions.” 
  • The conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, EEOC alleged, “which prohibits facially neutral employment practices that cause a discriminatory impact because of race when those practices are not job-related and consistent with business necessity or where alternative practices with less discriminatory impact are available.”

Dive Insight:

The suit alleged, among other claims, that Black candidates experienced a “significant disparate impact” from the employer’s criminal justice history probe, as they comprised a “disproportionately high number of the total number of job applicants whom Defendants have refused to hire,” the EEOC argued.

The background check vendor keeps records of its screenings; the court document noted that Black job applicants failed the screenings at a rate greater than 14.5%, Indigenous candidates failed at a 13% rate, and multiracial candidates failed at about a 13.5% rate — whereas White applicants failed at a rate below 8%. 

Notably, this claim comes in April, which is Second Chance Hiring Month as noted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

For employers interested in qualified workers who have criminal records, talent experts offer a few best practices for second-chance hiring. One emphasized previously emphasized to HR Dive importance of inclusive HR policies — such as time to report to parole officers. Additionally, they said, a background check should be seen as a “piece of paper” with information on it that is stripped of a job candidate’s full, real-life human experience. 

“Federal law mandates that employment practices causing a disparate impact because of race or other protected classifications must be shown by the employer to be necessary to ensure the safe and efficient performance of the particular jobs at issue,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a statement. “Even when such necessity is proven, the practice remains unlawful if there is an alternative practice available that is comparably effective in achieving the employer’s goals but causes less discriminatory effect.”

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