By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – How can a policy that applies to everyone actually be discriminatory?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed claims this month against two companies that don’t seem to have much in common, luxury car maker BMI and dollar store Dollar General, except for the one thing – their hiring practices.

Both BMI and Dollar General conduct criminal background checks and rule out applicants who have criminal convictions. So you may wonder, if a policy applies to applicants, how can it be discriminatory? Because under the law, a policy that seems neutral can have the effect of disproportionally disqualifying one group of people, and that’s discrimination.

Statistics that show that a blanket policy that prevents the hiring of anyone with a conviction, will disproportionally disqualify minority candidates. So employers should make sure to judge applicants on their qualifications and ability to do the job, not rule out people with spots on their records automatically or that will cost them a lot of dollars.