DHL Supply Chain has settled for $2.7 million a class-action lawsuit filed by two Black job applicants who alleged the company’s pre-hire criminal history screening policy disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic applicants, according to the March 20 agreement (Pickett et al. v. Exel Inc. No. 23-1655 (N.D. Ill. March 20, 2023)).
DHL’s criminal history background check policy “automatically triggers rejection for certain criminal offenses without any individualized analysis of the applicant or the offense’s relation to the job sought,” the complaint alleged, which “results in a blanket ban on employment for applicants with certain prior criminal convictions.”
One of the named plaintiffs, who was already working at DHL as a forklift driver through a staffing agency, was denied a different forklift job at DHL due to their prior criminal history.
“DHL Supply Chain’s policy is not job related or consistent with business necessity,” the complaint said. “Accordingly, Plaintiffs allege that DHL Supply Chain implements a criminal history screening policy and practice that perpetuates gross racial disparities in the criminal justice system in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
DHL Supply Chain declined to comment.
Employers more broadly have been taking a second look at hiring protocols around criminal history, studies have shown, especially as a way to widen talent pools. RAND Corp. research released in February 2022 found that the majority of unemployed men in their 30s have a criminal history.
Some states and localities have also banned employers from asking applicants about their criminal histories early on in the hiring process, most commonly referred to as “ban the box” laws.
To that end, employers have warmed up to hiring workers with criminal records, particularly in a tight labor market, a Society for Human Resource Management survey showed in 2021.