It’s not uncommon for companies to conduct criminal background checks on job applicants, but a settlement between Pepsi Beverages and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a reminder that not using the checks legally may be costly.
Pepsi has agreed to pay $3.1 million to settle federal charges that it discriminated against job applicants by using criminal background checks to screen them out even if they had not been convicted of a crime, or had been convicted of minor offenses.
The EEOC, as reported by the Associated Press, said the screenings disproportionately excluded more than 300 blacks and Hispanics from vying for jobs. The complaints against Pepsi first surfaced in 2006, and the company said it has been working with the EEOC since then to revise its hiring policies.
From the AP:
Using arrest and conviction records to deny employment can be illegal if it’s irrelevant for the job, according to the EEOC, which enforces the nation’s employment discrimination laws. The agency says such blanket policies can limit job opportunities for minorities with higher arrest and conviction rates than whites.
In addition to paying the settlement, Pepsi plans to “make jobs available to victims of the old policy if they are still interested in jobs at Pepsi and are qualified for the openings.”
A spokesman said the company is “committed to promoting diversity and inclusion.