Macy’s Hit With EEOC Charge Over Criminal-History Screening

May 18, 2017

Macy’s screening of job applicants for their criminal history is too sweeping and results in qualified minority job seekers being unlawfully turned away for employment, according to a charge filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The company’s screening process is overbroad in three ways, attorney Ossai Miazad told Bloomberg BNA May 17. First, it requires applicants to disclose criminal violations over too long a period. Second, the categories of violations it seeks disclosure of are themselves too broad. And finally, Macy’s doesn’t adequately account for “mitigating circumstances,” such as whether an applicant has been rehabilitated, as part of its criminal background screening, she said.

Miazad is with plaintiffs-side firm Outten & Golden LLP in New York, which filed the charge May 15 on behalf of the Fortune Society. The Long Island City, N.Y.-based organization is dedicated to helping people involved in the criminal justice system become successfully reintegrated into society, including by providing them with job training and placement services and assistance, according to its website.

The retailer’s overbroad policy has a disparate impact on black, Latino and male job seekers, according to the charge. In many instances, job applicants sent to Macy’s by the Fortune Society were turned away even though they didn’t have any recent criminal history and their involvement with the criminal justice system occurred when they were younger, Miazad said.

‘Ban the Box’ Laws Proliferating

Employer criminal background screening has spurred many state and local governments to enact “ban the box” laws that typically delay when in the hiring process such screening may be done for most jobs. Critics of criminal history checks argue that the process disproportionately affects minority job applicants, who are much more likely to have been arrested or incarcerated.

The EEOC charge against Macy’s comes after Outten & Golden conducted an investigation into the company’s criminal-history screening process, Miazad said. The charge asks the federal employment rights watchdog, which has previously warned employers of the risks inherent in criminal background checks, to investigate Fortune’s claims against Macy’s on a classwide basis.

Macy’s didn’t reply to a request for comment made outside of normal business hours.


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