Biden Administration Sues Sheetz Over Hiring Practices

 April 23, 2024

The Biden administration has initiated a legal battle against the convenience store chain Sheetz.

The lawsuit claims that Sheetz's employment policies, which disqualify applicants who fail criminal background checks, disproportionately affect nonwhite candidates.

According to Daily Wire, all Fortune 100 companies now openly pledge allegiance to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles. This surge in commitment has come about swiftly in the wake of significant events like George Floyd's death, signaling a shift in corporate America's approach to racial justice.

The Widening Scope of Corporate Diversity Initiatives

According to researcher Chris Rufo, this unanimous move towards DEI by leading corporations is reactive, largely influenced by the national outcry following instances of racial injustice. Private discussions within these companies suggest a fear of repercussions from the federal government if they fail to adhere to DEI norms.

Sheetz, which operates over 700 outlets, is now under federal scrutiny. The chain's longstanding policy of excluding job applicants who do not pass criminal background checks is being challenged as racially biased under the theory of "disparate impact."

Legal Interpretations and Corporate Responsibilities

This theory employed by the administration doesn't require proof of intentional discrimination. Rather, it focuses on the effects of a company's policy that might unintentionally disadvantage a racial group more than another. In response to the lawsuit, Sheetz defended its practice, emphasizing nearly a decade spent trying to resolve the issue with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The controversy stems from the EEOC complaints that highlighted a pattern where nonwhite applicants were denied employment at a higher rate due to failing these background checks. The lawsuit articulates that Sheetz "committed a continuing, companywide practice in violation of Title VII."

Reflections from Similar Past Legal Actions

This isn't the first time such a case has surfaced. In 2019, the EEOC under the Trump administration secured a $6 million settlement from Dollar General in a similar lawsuit. An EEOC attorney remarked on this case, highlighting its long-term significance.

By raising these charges, the Biden administration seems to be signaling a firm stance on enforcing anti-discriminatory laws while simultaneously encouraging businesses to reconsider their hiring frameworks. The lawsuit alleges that Sheetz's policies harm potential employees and contravene federal law.

The parallel drawn with the Dollar General lawsuit, in which the company was accused of similar discriminatory practices, underscores a pattern of legal actions aimed at rectifying racially biased employment practices. This prior case ended with Dollar General agreeing to amend its employment practices and compensate affected parties.

Sheetz has openly expressed commitment to diversity and inclusion, stating, "Diversity and inclusion are essential parts of who we are … We take these allegations seriously. We have attempted to work with the EEOC for nearly eight years to find common ground and resolve this dispute."

Broader Implications for Business Practices

The broader narrative here points to a growing governmental influence on corporate hiring practices, particularly around issues of race and criminal records. The government's approach not only aims to rectify potential biases but also encourages companies to proactively align their policies with broader social justice goals.

In conclusion, the Biden administration's lawsuit against Sheetz raises critical questions about the balance between security measures and racial equity in hiring practices. It also highlights the ongoing societal and governmental pressures businesses face in aligning their operational practices with evolving standards of justice and equality.

The outcome of this lawsuit could potentially influence hiring standards across various sectors, underscoring the significant role of federal enforcement in shaping corporate behaviors.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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