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Amazon Accused of Using Background Checks to Fire Drivers Illegally

By Michael Klazema on 10/16/2016

Could Amazon.com soon be facing a background check lawsuit in Boston? Per a report from the Boston Globe, the company and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, have been accused of unfair and possibly illegal employee dismissals. The Globe says that Amazon recently fired "dozens" of drivers in Boston, using criminal background check findings as the sole justification for doing so.

The accusations come from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Judgment. The Committee says that, in August, Bezos told contract firms that fulfill delivery services for Amazon to audit their driver background check reports. Bezos allegedly instructed Amazon's contractors to "deactivate" certain drivers based on criminal histories. Whether Bezos' alleged remarks applied to all Amazon deliveries contractors or just those in Boston is unclear.

The Globe report said that the contract companies were only supposed to cut drivers "whose background checks didn't meet the company's requirements." The Lawyers' Committee claims that at least one Boston-area Amazon contractor fired 30 to 40 employees based on their background check findings. The Committee said that the drivers were hard workers and had no issues with job performance. Per reports, many were not fired based on major criminal offenses but rather “minor” crimes.

The Lawyers' Committee is considering a discrimination lawsuit against Amazon in accordance with EEOC policies. The EEOC prohibits companies from using background check policies that disproportionately impact minority groups. Per the Globe report, most of the Boston drivers who lost their jobs were either black or Latino.

The EEOC bars companies from summarily discriminating against individuals with criminal records. While businesses are allowed to disqualify applicants or fire employees based on criminal findings, they must make those decisions on a case-by-case basis. Specifically, businesses must take the nature and severity of each offense into the account as well as how it relates to the job at hand. Typically, minor offenses or offenses far in the past are not viewed by the EEOC as acceptable grounds for disqualification or dismissal.

The Lawyers' Committee believes that Amazon failed to meet both of these EEOC standards. In addition, the company allegedly fired its Boston drivers without giving each employee a chance to dispute the accuracy of the background check findings. This oversight would be a violation of the FCRA, which requires businesses to go through several formal steps before taking adverse employment action due to background checks.

The Globe report says that the Lawyers' Committee is waiting for Amazon to respond to their accusations before filing a lawsuit. So far, Amazon has said that driver background checks are done to preserve "safety and customer trust."

Sources: https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/10/12/lawyers-group-accuses-amazon-bias-firing-drivers/L0wTVHL0ejMFOE38VSCIAO/story.html

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