Employers face many challenges in the hiring process, and finding suitable candidates is only the first hurdle. Many employers seek to understand whether their applicants have a notable criminal history, but in doing so, they must stay within the boundaries of “fair hiring” laws. This suite includes not only local regulations, such as “ban the box” rules, but also long-established federal policy, including the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
According to NBC News, a new lawsuit in the Southern District of New York claims that Macy’s ran afoul of both these protections consistently and deliberately, denying jobs or terminating positions for those found to have a criminal record. Plaintiffs allege that they encountered adverse decisions even when the convictions in question were old or irrelevant to the duties of their position.
Time and relevance to the job role are two of the litmus tests recommended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for gauging the impact, if any, that a past conviction should have on an individual’s job chances. The suit claims that these policies created a pattern of racially discriminatory behavior as non-white applicants are disproportionately affected by policies involving criminal records.
Filed by The Fortune Society, a group that advocates on behalf of job-seekers with criminal records, attorneys requested class-action status to connect with the potentially hundreds or thousands of applicants who may be in a similar position.
The legal proceedings originate with a New York woman, Jenetta Rolfer. Accepting an offer to work in Macy’s customer service department, Rolfer began her new position in October. Just a month later, she received a letter from Macy’s revoking her initial offer and removing her from the company.
It took until December for Rolfer to receive a copy of the criminal background check used by Macy’s. Rolfer quickly recognized that her termination came as a result of a misdemeanor on her background check. Her crime? Involvement in a traffic accident without valid insurance. Officially classed as a misdemeanor, the incident occurred approximately a decade ago.
With no other convictions or notable blemishes on her criminal record, Rolfer alleges that Macy’s chose to fire her. The suit argues that not only should the age of the charge make it irrelevant to Rolfer’s employment, but so should its lack of relevance to the duties of her job.
For employers, the suit should serve as a reminder of the importance of compliance. Requesting a criminal history report such as backgroundchecks.com’s US OneSEARCH is a solid first step towards smart hiring decisions, but reviewing your existing procedures and ensuring complete compliance is just as critical a step. Applicants: be sure that you understand your rights and what you can do to improve your chances of passing a background check.
The litigation is pending while lawyers gather stories from plaintiffs around the country who also allege that they were negatively impacted by Macy’s hiring procedures.