by Sam Levin
Local civil rights and worker advocates called on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday to launch a federal investigation of Bank of America, the Manpower staffing agency, and the Alameda-based One-Stop Career Center for allegedly discriminatory practices against African-American and Latino job applicants.
In a letter sent yesterday to EEOC Chairman Ishimaru - with signatures from fifteen organizations - the advocates claim that recent large job-search campaigns of those three companies are illegal because they bar consideration of applicants with felony or misdemeanor records. According to the letter, these restrictions - posted as "Background Check (no felonies or misdemeanors)" - are directly violating federal and state laws, as well as EEOC hiring guidelines that state that employers cannot routinely consider arrests, and convictions can only be considered when employers prove it has a direct relation to the actual job.
Due to the very disproportionate number of minorities that have criminal backgrounds, these organizations are asking the EEOC to consider the actions of these companies as racially discriminatory.
Linda Evans, an organizer with civil-rights group All of Us or None, said that the letter is meant to be a statement that illegal discrimination cannot continue. "There is this stigma attached to people with records," she said. "The point of this EEOC charge is to step into the 21st century. One out of every five people in California now has a record. ... This blanket ban is illegal."
Bank of America and Manpower could not be reached for comment, but One-Stop Career Center Site Manager Graham Thomas said, "We are investigating," but declined to comment beyond that.
Evans said that she is hopeful that the EEOC will follow through.
Laura Moskowitz, staff attorney at the Oakland-based National Employment Law Project, which helped organize the letter, said that she optimistically anticipates that these corporations will reform their practices - should the EEOC actually choose to file charges. Speaking about the three companies, Moskowitz said, "They are not aware of the guidance boundaries, and this a very blatant violation."