Macy’s was recently named in a suit alleging its criminal background screening policy discriminates against certain applicants and employees.
Earlier this week, a lawsuit was filed against Macy’s, Inc. in the Southern District of New York alleging the company has an “unnecessarily punitive criminal history screening policy.” The suit itself was filed by Youth Represent (YR), the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), and the law firm of Outten & Golden LLP (O&G). According to the allegations detailed in the lawsuit, Macy’s screening policy “disproportionately disqualifies Black and Latinx applicants and employees from job opportunities,” which violates not only Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but also the New York City Human Rights Law.
The plaintiffs in the case include Jenetta Rolfer and The Fortune Society, Inc. Together, the plaintiffs hope to bring about a change to Macy’s screening policy that often “results in a disproportionate number of otherwise qualified Black and Latinx job applicants and employees being denied employment or terminated due to their criminal background histories, including for minor or very old convictions that are unrelated to the positions at issue.”
The Fortune Society, Inc. operates as a nonprofit, community-centered organization dedicated to supporting community reentry and even offers job-training and placement services. According to the organization, certain hiring practices at Macy’s, such as its criminal history screening policy, negatively “affect its participants who work at or apply for jobs and are rejected or terminated.” When commenting on the policy, JoAnne Page, the CEO and president of The Fortune Society, said:
“Collateral consequences from convictions, such as discriminatory hiring policies, serve only to further punish and marginalize already vulnerable communities. Most people we serve at The Fortune Society are in fragile housing, financial, physical, or emotional circumstances. People need real opportunities to help reclaim their life, not more obstacles. All applicants deserve to be evaluated based on the qualifications necessary to perform the job, independent of any justice history. Given a fair opportunity to succeed, people with justice system involvement would add significant value to the workforce at Macy’s.”
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel at LDF, also chimed in and said:
“The criminal history screening policy at Macy’s denies jobs to many qualified applicants and employees. Overly restrictive and punitive criminal history screening policies can disproportionately impact Black and Latinx workers, due to racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Macy’s must amend its discriminatory criminal history screening policy and create more economic opportunities for deserving Americans.”
One of the plaintiff’s, Rolfer, argues in the suit that she was a victim of Macy’s policy. According to her, she was hired as a member of the store’s Credit Granting Department, but was later “abruptly terminated by the company for a misdemeanor conviction stemming from a decade-old traffic-related incident.” Commenting on the incident, Rolfer said:
“I was excited to work for Macy’s. I was qualified and had the experience to do the job well and it was a great opportunity for me and my family. I was devastated to be fired over information in my background check that is unrelated to my ability to be a productive employee.”
As a result, Rolfer’s suit claims Macy’s violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act because its policy rejects applicants or terminates “employees based on information contained in criminal background reports without providing individuals with a copy of their report, a notice of their rights, or a timely notification of its intent to take an adverse employment action.”