Bias suit questions Macy’s criminal history background screening process
In mid-May, Macy's department store received a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the company's "overbroad" criminal history screening unlawfully turned away qualified minority job seekers.
According to the complaint, Macy's applicant background check process violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by rejecting or terminating employees on the basis of criminal histories which had no relationship to a candidate's ability to perform a job.
The charge filed with EEOC by the nonprofit Fortune Society, a New York-based organization dedicated to reintegrating ex-convicts into society, further alleged that Macy's screening procedures are unfairly wide-ranging in several ways. As stated in the complaint, Macy's requires applicants to disclose criminal violations over too a long a period, while the categories of violations themselves are too broad. In addition, Macy's criminal background check does not adequately account for "mitigating circumstances," such as whether an applicant has been rehabilitated.
These policies have a disparate impact on black, Latino and male applicants, according to the charge. Some job seekers sent to Macy's by the Fortune Society were declined on the basis of past involvement with the criminal justice system, even though those violations occurred when they were younger.
"Responsible corporate citizens should not be putting roadblocks” in the way of people eager to make a better life for themselves and their families, Fortune Society president and CEO JoAnne Page said in a statement.
The Cincinnati and New York-based Macy's parent company operates 800 stores throughout the United States and its territories, including Bloomingdale's and Bluemercury stores. The background screening case against Macy's coincides with numerous states adopting "ban the box" laws that restrict employers from asking applicants about criminal convictions until later in the hiring process. Critics of criminal history checks argue that the process disproportionately effects minority job applicants.
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