Pepsi Beverages Co. has agreed to pay $3.1 million to settle federal charges of race discrimination for using criminal background checks to screen out job applicants — even if they weren’t convicted of a crime.

Using arrest and conviction records to deny employment can be illegal if it’s irrelevant for the job, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces the nation’s employment discrimination laws. In this case, the EEOC feels that the company’s policy of not hiring workers with arrest records disproportionately excluded more than 300 black applicants.

The company has since adopted a new criminal background policy and 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.

“I commend Pepsi’s willingness to reexamine its policy and modify it to ensure that unwarranted roadblocks to employment are removed,” EEOC Chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien said in a statement.

“We hope that employers with unnecessarily broad criminal background check policies take note of this agreement and reassess their policies to ensure compliance” with antidiscrimination laws, Julie Schmid – acting director of the EEOC’s Minneapolis office – said in a written statement.

About 73 percent of major employers report that they always check on applicants’ criminal records, while 19 percent do so for select job candidates, according to a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

The hard-line position taken by the EEOC is something that all businesses need to think about as they enforce their employment screening policies. To be sure to stick within the legal lines, it would be best to hire an employment screening service – who will have a tight grasp of legislation and how you can stay on the right side of the law.

If you have any questions regarding employment screening legislation, or the employment screening process as a whole, feel free to get in touch with us at Mind Your Business, Inc. We will do our utmost to answer your questions and assist your hiring needs.



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