Pepsi Beverages Co. is having to pay $3.1 million to settle federal charges of "race discrimination."
But what exactly does the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim that Pepsi Beverages did to "discriminate"?
It says the company improperly used arrest records and criminal background checks to screen out job applicants. The EEOC said barring job-seekers with convictions or arrests in their past disproportionately affected black applicants.
Under the EEOC's rules, it can be illegal for an employer to deny a job to someone based on arrest and conviction records if those records are considered "irrelevant" to the job, The Associated Press noted.
But wait a minute! Pepsi wasn't concerning itself with the race of job applicants but with their arrests and convictions. That's not racist.
Moreover, it is absurd to expect employers to be able to predict whether a particular criminal conviction will be "relevant" to whether a job applicant would perform his duties honestly and legally. A person who breaks the law in one area may be prone to breaking it in others, possibly exposing an employer to liability if the company hires him with the knowledge that he has a criminal past.
It is commendable and even noble if a business is willing to take a chance on hiring someone who has a criminal history but who is trying to work his way back into society. But that should be a voluntary decision by the employer.
It is grossly unfair for the federal government to say just how much weight companies may give to criminal convictions when they are considering hiring someone.