Major Companies Accused of Racial Discrimination

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has brought two separate lawsuits against two major companies: discount retailer Dollar General and car-maker BMW.

The E.E.O.C. alleges that these companies used criminal background checks to screen out workers who have a criminal record of any kind. The suits were brought under the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against job seekers on the basis of race.

While African-Americans represent just thirteen percent of the population, they account for thirty-seven percent of those incarcerated in the United States. One in three black men will be incarcerated at some point in their lives. 

Does refusing to hire applicants with criminal records amount to racial discrimination? 

Michael Meltsner is a professor of law at Northeastern Law School who helped develop New York’s employment law regarding criminal background checks. New York's law is considered the highest standard for protecting job applicants with a criminal record. 

Suzanne Lucas is a former human resources executive who is concerned about the way the EEOC's lawsuits may impact employers.