The EEOC took on an important issue last year when it reaffirmed and updated a ruling that barred employers from automatically denying people jobs based on arrest or conviction records. The guidance made clear that an arrest alone was not proof of illegal conduct or grounds for exclusion. It also explained that, when considering an applicant with a criminal conviction, the employer must take into account the seriousness of the offense, the time lapsed since the offense and the relevance of the crime to the specific job being sought. The point is to eliminate unfair obstacles to employment for the 65 million Americans who have criminal records, including those based on minor convictions that might have occurred in the distant past. Recently, the EEOC stepped up enforcement in this area by filing discrimination lawsuits against two companies – the retail chain Dollar General and the automaker BMW. The suits charge the companies with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by using discriminatory background-check policies that had disparate impacts on minority employees and applicants.