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BMW: Dismiss discrimination complaint by US EEOC

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) -- BMW is asking a federal judge to dismiss an employment discrimination complaint filed against it by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

BMW Manufacturing Co. said in its response to a commission lawsuit suit filed in June that the automaker did not engage in illegal employment practices on the basis of race at its Greer plant.

In its complaint, the commission said BMW had violated former employees' civil rights by using criminal background checks that had a disproportionate effect on black employees and applicants. The agency said the screenings discriminate against African-Americans, who have higher arrest and conviction rates than whites.

In its filing with U.S. District Court in Spartanburg, the company asks for dismissal of the lawsuit and asks that the commission pay its attorneys' fees.

The EEOC argued that BMW's policy affected dozens of employees working for a contractor that staffed a BMW warehouse. The contractor's policy was not to employ anyone with a criminal record within the past seven years. When a new contractor took over the company, BMW ordered a new round of criminal background checks and fired anyone with a criminal record from any year.

The EEOC said of the 88 workers fired, 70 were black. Some had worked for BMW — through the contractor — for more than a decade, the EEOC alleged.

The commission claims the BMW policy is a "blanket exclusion" without any regard for the nature and gravity of the crimes, how old they are, or whether they are relevant to the type of work being performed.

In its response, BMW denied the assertion that its policy doesn't distinguish between felony and misdemeanor convictions.