BMW Manufacturing Co. will pay $1.6 million and offer to rehire dozens of black former employees at a South Carolina plant who were fired after the company implemented a new criminal background check policy, according to a settlement agreement approved Tuesday.
The pact between BMW Manufacturing, a South Carolina-based subsidiary of the German automaker, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was approved by U.S. District Judge Henry Herlong in the District of South Carolina. It came after two years of contentious litigation in which the company tried to force the agency to divulge its own screening procedures.
In its complaint, the EEOC said BMW used those checks in a manner that was biased against black workers and job applicants. BMW Manufacturing used the checks to deny re-employment to as many as 69 blacks working for a logistical services company that helped staff its Spartanburg plant when they tried to transfer in 2008 to another logistics firm that did contract work for BMW, the complaint said.
"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 EEOC said at the time.
The EEOC in 2012 issued a bulletin advising employers that use of a criminal history check to make employment decisions may violate the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Of the employees who were denied access to the plant after the background checks, 80 percent were black, the EEOC said.
The EEOC has sought 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 circumstances.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report.