Amazon Accused Of Discriminatory Screening Policies​

December 26, 2018
Multiple delivery drivers were terminated; reportedly over outdated and irrelevant criminal convictions.
Backgrounds Online | December 26, 2018

Multiple delivery drivers were terminated; reportedly over outdated and irrelevant criminal convictions.

Accusations Against Amazon

A Boston-based civil rights group filed a complaint against Amazon. They say the online retailer implemented background screening policies that disproportionately hurt African-American and Latino drivers.

According to the group, Amazon updated their policies to say that drivers with any type of criminal record are automatically disqualified from employment. The group asserts that this is unfair because millions of Americans have records and people of color are far more likely to be arrested. Therefore, people of certain ethnicities have a disproportionate number of convictions.

Amazon’s policies have allegedly caused multiple drivers with positive track records to lose their jobs. Many of the affected individuals were minorities. Having discriminatory policies is in opposition to federal law. If this claim can be confirmed and Amazon does not make changes, the group will consider filing a lawsuit.

Amazon’s Response

A representative from Amazon reacted to the complaint. Spokesperson Kelly Cheeseman said: “Safety and customer trust are our top priorities, which is why we have always required delivery service providers to conduct comprehensive background checks for their employee drivers.”

Cheeseman went on to say that their company code of conduct prohibits discrimination of any kind. She said their background screening policy is focused on “job-related criminal and motor vehicle convictions and does not consider race, gender, ethnicity, religion or other protected characteristics.”

Best Practice For Considering Convictions

There is a nationwide “Second Chance” movement in the United States to help people with criminal histories find employment. This is done by creating laws that give job seekers a foot in the door. The purpose is to allow people to be interviewed and have an opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications to prospective employers. To help reach this goal, current best practice is for employers to review convictions individually before determining if they might cause the applicant to be ineligible for hire.

Employers are asked to consider factors such as how long ago an offense occurred, whether or not the person had additional convictions and if an offense is relevant to the position. Many convictions might not have any bearing on the subject’s eligibility to hold a job. Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice spoke out against the Amazon terminations: “Many of these records were ancient, decades old, and are being used now after individuals have paid their debt to society.”

Takeaway For Employers

It is essential to keep up with federal, state and local laws that cover hiring and background screening. Employers should be aware of second chance laws such as those that prohibit asking about convictions on job applications or require an individualized assessment for anyone who has a criminal record. Businesses and organizations that fail to comply with relevant laws could face fees and costly litigation.

It’s equally important to note that employers are encouraged, and in some cases mandated, to run background checks on the candidates they are considering. These reports can help employers determine if a person is qualified and deemed a safe hire. While many convictions are minor and do not make a person ineligible most positions, hiring someone who has a violent, sexual or other serious conviction can be disastrous.

If you need help setting up background screening packages that are compliant with relevant laws, please contact us. Our team is highly experienced, knowledgeable and here to help you from Monday through Friday, 5am to 6pm PT.