Class Action Lawsuit Claims Walmart Background Check Policy is Discriminatory

Criminal Background Check

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Walmart Inc. is facing a proposed nationwide class action lawsuit that claims “the nation’s largest employer discriminates against Black and Latino job applicants through a strict background check policy that fails to consider rehabilitation and other mitigating circumstances,” according to a news report from Reuters.

The complaint Ramos v. Walmart Inc. (No. 2:21-cv-13827) filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on July 19, 2021, claimed that the Arkansas-based company’s background check policy violated state and federal law because it was not “job-related and consistent with business necessity,” Reuters reported.

Plaintiff Jacqueline Ramos said she had a job offer with Walmart rescinded because of a prior felony conviction and claimed that Walmart’s background check policies were in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

The complaint claimed that Walmart’s policy of denying jobs to ex-offenders who have prior criminal records, regardless of how much time had passed or the steps taken to rehabilitate, had a disparate impact on Black and Latino job applicants, who are far more likely to have criminal convictions than white job applicants.

Reuters reported that Ramos “is seeking to represent nationwide and New Jersey-wide classes of Black and Latino people who were turned down for jobs by Walmart because of their criminal records.” Amazon, Macy’s, Uber, and Wells Fargo have also faced race bias lawsuits involving their criminal background check policies.

Reuters also reported that a Walmart spokesman said the company used an “individual circumstance” review process for Ramos and “determined the job she applied for was necessarily related to her felony conviction.” He also said the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) dismissed a claim filed by Ramos.

In 2012, the EEOC, which enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace including Title VII, issued “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” to consolidate and update previous guidance documents.

The EEOC guidance stated that an employer may violate Title VII if the employer’s “policy or practice has the effect of disproportionately screening out a Title VII-protected group and the employer fails to demonstrate that the policy or practice is job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.”

In 2013, some civil and workers’ rights organizations released a report – “Best Practice Standards: The Proper Use of Criminal Records in Hiring” – for employers using background checks. Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), helped to develop the standards.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm named the #1 screening service by HRO Today in 2020 – offers a white paper on “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce” to help applicants with criminal records find work. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) reminds readers that allegations alone made in class action lawsuits are not proof that a business or person violated any law, rule, or regulation.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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