“We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing.” This is the tagline for the Netflix original thriller-drama Bloodline. If you haven’t seen it, run to add it to your watch list immediately. The show takes us into the lives of the Rayburn family, owners of a picturesque beachside hotel in the Florida Keys. Despite the gorgeous backdrop, this family is plagued by its dark and violent past. Pay attention to the opening sequence because a storm is certainly coming.
When the oldest son, Danny, returns home after years away, the family reunion is anything but happy. Need proof? We know from the very start that Danny will end up dead by the hands of one (or more) of his siblings, but it will take the rest of the first season to unravel who kills him, how, and why.
During Danny’s descent into darkness (all he wanted to do was to give his toast at the anniversary party, right?), he and his family members commit any number of sins, many of which could destroy the family, not to mention the family business. To give but one example, Danny uses his criminal connections to threaten a witness and save one of his co-conspirators, Carlos, from some jail time after a fight. Danny ends up hiring Carlos to work at his family’s hotel, a cover for their actual moneymaking plan, despite (or, indeed, because of) Carlos’ criminal history and his recent run-in with the law.
This type of scenario is probably not what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had in mind when it released its enforcement guidance on the consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Title VII prohibits employers from treating individuals differently based on those protected statuses, but it also prohibits employers from applying a facially neutral policy that has a disparate impact on individuals in a particular protected group.
The EEOC has warned that even when employers apply criminal record exclusions uniformly, the exclusions may still operate to disproportionately and unjustifiably exclude people of a particular race or national origin. In short, employers must show that such exclusions are job-related and consistent with business necessity. The EEOC has called for a fact-based analysis whereby employers should consider (1) the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct, (2) the time that has passed since the offense, conduct, and/or completion of the sentence, and (3) the nature of the job sought or held.
Danny, however, isn’t your typical employer. For his purposes, a criminal history is a virtue and an opportunity for exploitation. After all, how do you pay back your boss for having the prosecution’s star witness frightened out of testifying against you at your upcoming trial? Nothing good, I can tell you, but it certainly makes for an entertaining show. So tell us your thoughts in the comments section as well as your predictions for Season Two in the New Year.