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EEOC Files Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Against Sheetz Convenience Stores

— April 19, 2024

The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges that Sheetz discriminates against minority applicants–by rejecting job-seekers who fail criminal criminal background checks.

The federal government has filed a lawsuit against Sheetz, claiming that the convenience store chain discriminated against minority job-seekers.

According to The Associated Press, Sheetz operates more than 700 stores across six different states. The chain recently attracted some attention after President Joe Biden purchased snacks from an outlet while campaigning in Pennsylvania.

However, despite its brief moment of positive press, Sheetz is now facing allegations of wide-ranging and racially-motivated discrimination.

Earlier this week, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Sheetz and two of its subsidiary companies. In its complaint, lodged in a Baltimore-based court, government attorneys claimed that Sheetz’s practice of disqualifying applicants based on criminal records searches has a disproportionate impact on minority applicants—and, therefore, violates some job-seekers’ civil rights.

“Federal law mandates that employment practices causing a disparate impact because of race or other protected classifications must be shown by the employer to be necessary to ensure the safe and efficient performance of the particular jobs at issue,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a statement. “Even when such necessity is proven, the practice remains unlawful if there is an alternative practice available that is comparably effective in achieving the employer’s goals but causes less discriminatory effect.”

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The agency’s lawsuit cites Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit hiring and employment practices that “cause a discriminatory impact because of race when those practices are not job-related and consistent with business necessity or where alternative practices with less discriminatory impact are available.”

The EEOC, notes The Associated Press, filed its complaint after receiving reports of employment discrimination from two job-seekers—both black—who failed the company’s criminal background check.

In its initial investigation of these allegations, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that black applicants who failed criminal background checks were denied employment at a rate of 14.5%, while Native Americans were denied at a rate of 13%. White applicants who failed background checks were, in contrast, only denied employment at a rate of 8%.

However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission did not specify whether its analysis of rejection rates considered extenuating factors, such as differences in the nature and severity of offenses detected by Sheetz’s criminal background checks.

Sheetz, for its part, says that it “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

“Diversity and inclusion are essential parts of who we are. We take these allegations seriously,” Sheetz spokesperson Nick Ruffner said in a statement. “We have attempted to work with the EEOC for nearly eight years to find common ground and resolve this dispute.”


Convenience store chain with hundreds of outlets in 6 states hit with discrimination lawsuit

Sheetz accused of racial discrimination in its hiring processSheetz accused of racial discrimination in its hiring process

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