WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- BMW Manufacturing Co. was sued by the U.S. government over the allegedly discriminatory use of criminal background checks in hiring.
The company used those checks in a manner that was biased against black workers and job applicants, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Tuesday in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
BMW Manufacturing, a unit of BMW AG, used the checks to deny re-employment to as many as 69 blacks working for a logistical services company that helped staff its Spartanburg facility when they tried to transfer to another logistics firm in 2008, according to the EEOC's complaint.
BMW operates an assembly plant in Spartanburg.
"Claimants were denied access to BMW's facility without any individualized assessment of the nature and gravity of their criminal offenses, the ages of the convictions or the nature of their respective positions," the commission alleged.
One woman with 14 years with BMW was let go after a misdemeanor conviction surfaced that was more than 20 years old and carried a $137 fine, according to the EEOC lawsuit, The Washington Post reported.
BMW denied the allegations and said it complied with all laws, the Post reported.
The EEOC last year issued an Enforcement Guidance bulletin advising employers that use of a criminal history check to make employment decisions may violate the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Sky Foster, a spokeswoman for Spartanburg-based BMW Manufacturing, didn't immediately reply to a request from Bloomberg seeking comment on the agency's allegations.
Eighty percent of the employees who were denied plant access after the background checks were black, according to the EEOC.
The regulator said it seeks a court order barring BMW from continuing to use the same practice or any policy that has a disparate impact on blacks without examining each worker's individual circumstances, plus money damages.