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EEOC: Pepsi bottler trod on job applicants' rights

Pepsi Beverages, a Minneapolis-based bottler of the cola many Detroit readers enjoy, has announced that will pay over $3 million to settle claims that it engaged in racial discrimination as it hired new employees, the upper Midwest branch of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced this week.

The EEOC said it had uncovered evidence that about 300 black job applicants who applied for positions with the company between 2006 and 2010 were discriminated against. One of the biggest issues was a background-check policy that forbade workers who had been arrested, but not convicted of anything, from ever obtaining jobs at the factory. Such a policy disproportionately affected the black community, the EEOC said.

Employers can use criminal histories to screen applicants, but the kind of offenses they are looking for must be connected to the work in some way. In the case of Pepsi Beverages, workers who were arrested and released or convicted of trifling offenses were turned away, even though their infractions had nothing to do with the work they were seeking. As you can probably guess, we cannot allow employment policies like that because they would mean people who made minor mistakes would have no way of getting gainful employment and rejoining society as productive, contributing members of a community.

The settlement amount was "unusually large" for an EEOC settlement in the upper Midwest. The money will mostly be divvied up among the 300 or so applicants, who will also receive job offers and training from Pepsi Beverages, and a small amount will be used to defray the EEOC's procedural costs.

Source: The Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Pepsi bottler to pay $3.1 million to resolve discrimination charge," Dee DePass, Jan. 11, 2012

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