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Convenience Store Chain Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Discrimination in Hiring Practices

Sheetz Inc. has been sued by federal officials for discriminatory hiring practices that disproportionately affect minority job applicants. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed the lawsuit in Baltimore, alleging that Sheetz’s automatic exclusion of applicants based on criminal background checks violates federal civil rights law, and discriminates against Black, Native American, and multiracial individuals.

Sheetz, which operates more than 700 stores across six states, including Pennsylvania, has denied the allegations, saying that it does not tolerate any form of discrimination. 

The company has emphasized its commitment to diversity and inclusion, stating that it is willing to resolve the dispute with the EEOC, with whom they have been in discussions for nearly eight years.

Credit: DepositPhotos

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The lawsuit was filed in federal court and comes as President Joe Biden made a campaign stop at a Sheetz store in Pennsylvania. 

While federal officials clarified that they do not allege racial animus on the part of Sheetz, they contest the chain’s use of criminal background checks in its hiring process.

According to EEOC attorney Debra M. Lawrence, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, among other protected characteristics. 

Lawrence emphasized that even if an employer demonstrates a necessity for certain employment practices, they remain unlawful if alternative practices exist that are comparably effective but less discriminatory.

Credit: DepositPhotos

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The lawsuit aims to address the impact of Sheetz’s hiring practices, which the EEOC claims date back to at least 2015. 

The agency seeks to compel Sheetz to offer jobs to unlawfully denied applicants, in addition to providing back pay, retroactive seniority, and other benefits.

The EEOC’s investigation into Sheetz began after two job applicants alleged employment discrimination. 

Credit: DepositPhotos

The agency found that Black, multiracial, and Native American applicants were disproportionately denied employment due to failed criminal background checks, compared to their white counterparts.

Despite the EEOC’s attempts to mediate a settlement with Sheetz after notifying them of potential violations in 2022, the agency stated that these efforts were unsuccessful, leading to the decision to pursue legal action.

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