Criminals In The Workplace

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is celebrating a court decision against a well-known national corporation for hiring violations that were perceived as inequitable toward minorities.

A judge ordered Pepsi Beverages to pay $3.1 million to victims who claimed that criminal background checks unfairly hurt their chances of getting a job. A review of an applicant’s arrest record is a standard practice in workplaces across the country, so what made this one different?

The judge in the Pepsi case sided with the plaintiffs because arrest records – not convictions – were used to disqualify more than 300 minority job seekers. It’s a small example of the EEOC’s renewed focus on rooting out practices that could lead to racial bias against blacks and Hispanics.

Pepsi has revamped its hiring policies in the wake of the attention-grabbing case. Aside from the monetary settlement, the company will provide the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with reports on its hiring practices and offer anti-discrimination training to its hiring managers.

What do you think of these moves? Did the judge have the right to tell Pepsi who it can and cannot hire? The EEOC commended Pepsi for reshaping its policies, but did the company do it willingly?

Many small business owners out there might have made the same hiring decisions, so was it Pepsi’s status as a big employer that placed a target on its back?

We might never know, but it’s crucial for decision-makers at companies large and small to heed warning signs and keep track of cases that expose policies that might eventually land them in hot water. Contracting with a certified background check firm is one way to protect yourself.

We could see more of these cases pop up in the coming months, with attorneys citing the Pepsi precedent as an argument for fairer hiring methods. Do you know if your company’s practices are at risk for a lawsuit?

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