Macy’s Faces Class Action Lawsuit over Claims of Hiring Discrimination

By Michael Klazema on 8/1/2019

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’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.

Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • August 15 Background checks aren't a silver bullet that solves every concern about prospective new hires—they are a tool that must be used with care. How can an incorrect approach lead to inadequate vetting? 
  • August 13 How has legislation and regulation changed the way employers use criminal background checks? We look at some of the rules that modern companies must follow.
  • August 08 With many industries facing labor shortages, advocates and legislatures are reconsidering policies that exclude potential employees. Expansion of record expungement and "ban the box" rules could change the system. 
  • August 06 Continuous background screening or ongoing criminal monitoring is the best way to keep track of critical new developments on an employee’s criminal record. Learn how these background checks work. 
  • August 01

    A new lawsuit filed in New York alleges that department store chain Macy’s ignored federal hiring guidelines and laws, firing individuals for old and non-job-related criminal convictions. 


  • July 30 The Minneapolis City Council is considering a series of ordinances that would regulate the use of tenant background checks and security deposits. The city’s tight housing market has made it difficult for individuals with bad credit, eviction histories, or criminal records to find housing.
  • July 25 Following revelations about wrongdoing in USA Gymnastics at the hands of team doctor Larry Nasser, sports organizations must grapple with how to safeguard their members. Some have found more success than others. 
  • July 24 What do landlords want to know before accepting new tenants? Here are the basics included in the average tenant background check.
  • July 23 7-Eleven will pay nearly $2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit concerning its background check process. The lawsuit alleges that the convenience store chain violated the FCRA with its background check disclosure document.
  • July 22 Social and child service organization rely on background checks to vet employees, sponsors, drivers, and other staff members and volunteers. By helping to root out histories of violence, sexual abuse, and other red flags, our resources assist these organizations in keeping the people they serve safe.