Store Chain Visited by Biden Hit With Discrimination Lawsuit, but That’s Not the Worst Part

News & Politics

President Trump’s visit to a New York City bodega after his court appearance earlier this week was a viral sensation. The scene was vibrant, with supporters chanting for Trump and demonstrating tremendous enthusiasm in a traditionally Democratic stronghold. Joe Biden attempted to emulate Trump’s visit by making a quick stop at a Pittsburgh Sheetz gas station and convenience store on Wednesday, and it didn’t go as his campaign had hoped.

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The reception to Biden’s presence at the Sheetz gas station was, at best, lackluster. 

And yet, the optics have gotten even worse.

The federal government has filed a lawsuit against the Sheetz convenience store chain, accusing the company of discriminatory practices in hiring. “Sheetz Inc., which operates more than 700 stores in six states, discriminated against Black, Native American and multiracial job seekers by automatically weeding out applicants whom the company deemed to have failed a criminal background check, according to U.S. officials,” reports the Associated Press. “Sheetz Inc., which operates more than 700 stores in six states, discriminated against Black, Native American and multiracial job seekers by automatically weeding out applicants whom the company deemed to have failed a criminal background check, according to U.S. officials.”

Sheetz said Thursday that it “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

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

The privately held, family-run company has more than 23,000 employees and operates convenience stores and gas stations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and North Carolina.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Wednesday, the day Biden stopped at a Sheetz market on a western Pennsylvania campaign swing, buying snacks, posing for photos and chatting up patrons and employees. 

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Of course, Biden’s campaign stop and the discrimination lawsuit have nothing to do with each other, but you can imagine how the media would play this up had it been Trump visiting a chain that was the target of a discrimination lawsuit. 

The lawsuit against Sheetz, Inc. was filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, sex, religion, and national origin.

But here’s where the story gets really interesting. According to the Associated Press, federal officials “do not allege Sheetz was motivated by racial animus,” but “take issue with the way the chain uses criminal background checks to screen job seekers.”

“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 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.”

The EEOC began its probe of the convenience store chain after two job applicants filed complaints alleging employment discrimination.

The agency found that Black job applicants were deemed to have failed the company’s criminal history screening and were denied employment at a rate of 14.5%, while multiracial job seekers were turned away 13.5% of the time and Native Americans were denied at a rate of 13%.

By contrast, fewer than 8% of white applicants were refused employment because of a failed criminal background check, the EEOC’s lawsuit said.

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In other words, the Biden administration is accusing Sheetz of racial discrimination, not because of racial animus, but for conducting criminal background checks. Because, apparently, not wanting to hire criminals is racist?

It really makes Biden’s decision to visit a Sheetz location insulting.

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