Sheetz alleges racial discrimination in its hiring process

Sheetz alleges racial discrimination in its hiring process

A federal agency has accused a popular gas station chain of discriminating against Black, Native American and multiracial applicants in its hiring practices.

Sheetz’s criminal screening process disproportionately screened applicants from the legally protected pool, claims a lawsuit announced Thursday by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Gas station chains screen and reject applicants with criminal records, the EEOC said.

The employment practice violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace, the suit said.

Criminal records have become a barrier for certain workers to find employment. More than half of unemployed men in their 30s have a history of criminal convictions or arrests that prevent them from fully participating in the labor market, a 2022 study from the nonprofit research group RAND Corporation found. And minority groups who are incarcerated at higher rates than whites can be put at a greater disadvantage.

The lawsuit does not allege that Sheetz was actively motivated by race when rejecting applicants. In a statement, Sheetz said it “does not tolerate any form of discrimination.”

“We take this allegation seriously. We have been trying to work with the EEOC for nearly eight years to find common ground and resolve this dispute. We will address the claim in Court when the time is right,” Nick Ruffner, PR Manager for Sheetz, said in a statement.

The EEOC said the case would go to court after failing to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

The alleged illegal hiring practices have been going on in Maryland since at least 2015, the lawsuit says.

As part of the hiring process, applicants must answer questions about their criminal justice history and go through a background check through a third-party vendor. Those who fail the screening will not be hired.

About 14.5% of Black applicants fail the screening, while less than 8% of White applicants fail, according to the lawsuit. Native Americans and multiracial applicants fail at a rate of about 13%.

“Black job applicants comprise a disproportionately large number of job applicants that Defendants refuse to hire because of criminal justice history information,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit added that according to published statistics, blacks and Native Americans in the United States “are subject to arrest, conviction, and incarceration at significantly higher rates than whites.”

The EEOC says there are other screening methods available that will not discriminate.

“Even if such a requirement is proven, the practice remains unlawful if there are alternative practices that are equally effective in achieving the employer’s goals but cause less discriminatory effects,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a statement.

The lawsuit seeks an order for Sheetz to end its current hiring practices and establish equal employment policies and programs. It is also seeking refunds for affected applicants.

Sheetz has more than 600 stores in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and North Carolina. The East Coast convenience chain is known for its promotional gas prices around the holidays, such as gas for $1.776 on the Fourth of July.

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