Walmart is facing accusations of employment discrimination.
The allegations come from employees at a Walmart distribution center in Elwood, Illinois. Per a report from the blog Working in These Times, the distribution center is one of several similar Walmart-affiliated warehouses nationwide for which Walmart has been outsourcing operations since it opened in 2006. Walmart entrusts a third-party logistics company with management. The outsourcing was more recently applied to hiring, which was previously the purview of a temp agency.
When Walmart announced that it would be taking back control of its warehouses, the retail company said that 1) most existing temp workers would be rehired as Walmart employees and 2) employees would be receiving a $2-plus hourly wage increase. To be rehired, workers would need to submit to a Walmart criminal history background check.
One employee profiled by Working in These Times was disqualified from working for Walmart based on a drug possession charge from 1999. That employee, a black man, has filed a racial discrimination claim against Walmart alleging that the company’s background check policies have a disparate impact on minorities. Another black worker has filed a similar claim. The claims allege that Walmart allowed “other non-African employees with criminal records” to continue working at the Elwood warehouse.
Chris Williams, a lawyer with the National Legal Advocacy Network, told Working in These Times that the two African-American workers at the Elwood distribution center weren’t alone in their claims: “between 100 and 200” other workers could have been similarly affected. Currently, the claims are lodged with both the Illinois Department of human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There is a possibility that the case will balloon into a class-action lawsuit.
This situation underlines how important it is for employers to tread carefully when disqualifying job candidates for criminal convictions—especially convictions years in the rearview. Employers must consider the nature and severity of the crime, the relevance of the offense to the job in question, and the amount of time since the conviction occurred as well as whether there have been repeat offenses since. Employers must also follow the guidance of the EEOC and the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
A Walmart spokesperson told Working in These Times that the company includes “a thoughtful and transparent review process to help ensure everyone is treated fairly” regarding background checks. The spokesperson added that several ex-offenders “were offered a position after a personalized review of their offense”—but the individuals who have filed claims against Walmart say that minority employees did not receive this individualized review.
At backgroundchecks.com, we have numerous resources in our Learning Center that are meant to help businesses understand the ins and outs of FCRA and EEOC compliance. These resources are free to access and read at any time. If you have any questions about this type of compliance concerning background checks, or if you need assistance developing a compliant background check policy for your business, feel free to contact us directly.