EEOC wins round in discrimination case against Dollar General

Dive Brief:

  • A federal judge ruled that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has met the requirements to move ahead with a discrimination lawsuit it filed against Dollar General in 2013, reports the Chicago Tribune.
  • The EEOC argued that Dollar General’s practice of basing hiring decisions on a job candidate’s criminal history has a disparate impact on African-American job applicants, says the Tribune. The discount retailer fired a stocker and cashier a few days after hiring her when a background check uncovered a misdemeanor charge and a six-year-old drug-possession conviction, which she had revealed to the retailer during the recruitment process.
  • Dollar General’s defense was that the EEOC didn’t give it enough notice about the alleged discrimination and moved ahead quickly with a lawsuit before giving the company a chance to improve its practices. But U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood disagreed and ruled in the EEOC’s favor.

Dive Insight:

This is just a one-round victory for the EEOC, rather than a guarantee that the agency will ultimately win the case. The agency has always maintained that hiring decisions contingent on applicants’ job histories disproportionately discriminate against black candidates.

The plaintiff in this case told the company about her prior drug conviction before the information surfaced in a background check, but the case calls into question the legitimacy of the retailer's background check process. A thorough background check policy should provide a formal procedure for handling employees who fail background checks, including those that reveal their charges before any check is applied, to ensure the policy is fair for all.

Companies often eliminate candidates from positions that require handling money if they had criminal convictions, for example. But to avoid the ire of the EEOC, such policies need to be set in writing beforehand and applied evenly across the organization.

Filed Under: HR Management Legal
Top image credit: Dollar General