BMW denied in a federal court filing that it engaged in unlawful employment practices on the basis of race at its Spartanburg County auto-production facility.
The company asked a judge to dismiss a complaint filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that BMW’s criminal background check policy disproportionately excluded blacks from working at the company’s South Carolina plant, court records show.
The EEOC alleged in the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Spartanburg, that BMW’s policy has had a disparate impact on black employees and applicants, denying them opportunities to work with BMW and its suppliers of logistics services.
The agency claimed in its suit that BMW violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race discrimination.
The automaker had denied the EEOC claims.
In its court-filed answer to the EEOC complaint, BMW said it asked a new logistics contractor to perform criminal background checks on work applicants, including those who worked for a previous contractor.
The new contractor found some applicants who worked for the previous contractor had criminal convictions in violation of BMW’s criminal background check guidelines, BMW said in its court filing.
BMW said in the filing the new contractor didn’t hire some people who worked for the previous contractor because of prior criminal convictions. The company also said some individuals who previously worked for logistics contractors at BMW’s Greer facility were later denied access to the plant because of its criminal conviction policy, court records show.
The company denied its policy “operates to exclude disproportionate percentages of blacks” as the EEOC alleged in its complaint, court records show.
BMW is the only named defendant. The company opened its Upstate plant in 1994.
A spokeswoman said Monday that BMW had no further statement beyond the company’s court filing. An attorney for the EEOC couldn’t be reached for comment.
BMW said in its filing that employees of the previous logistics services contractor provided warehouse, distribution and other services in buildings at the company’s Upstate facility.
Some of the employees had worked at the plant “for multiple years,” BMW said.
BMW said in the filing that its background check guidelines listed murder, assault and battery, rape, child abuse, spousal abuse, manufacturing of drugs, distribution of drugs and weapons violation as conditions for employment rejection.
The company also said in the filing the guidelines included a statement that any convictions of a “violent nature” are conditions for rejection and there is no statute of limitations for any of the crimes.
BMW, in its filing, also denied the EEOC’s allegation that the company’s criminal background policy makes no distinction between felony and misdemeanor convictions.
The EEOC suit against BMW seeks back pay and other relief for 69 blacks, six of whom filed charges with the EEOC, according to agency officials and court records. The remaining 63 are identified class members, EEOC officials said.
One claimant had worked at the BMW facility for 14 years, and another had worked at the BMW facility for 12 years, according to the suit.
The EEOC said it filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The agency seeks lost wages and benefits, as well as reinstatement or “front pay” representing future wages and benefits, according to court records. The agency also seeks an order barring future discrimination and other injunctive relief.
BMW said in its court filing that the EEOC claimants failed to exhaust administrative remedies as required by law. The company also said the EEOC’s claims should be barred because the agency failed “in good faith” to engage in conciliation as required under the Civil Rights Act.