Lawsuit Claims Background Check Process Unfairly Harmed Black Job Applicants

Criminal Background Check

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On December 3, 2020, a class action lawsuit was filed in federal court that claimed the background check process of New York Life Insurance Company that allegedly denied jobs due to past arrests not resulting in convictions was discriminatory and disproportionately harmed Black job applicants, ClassAction.org reported.

“New York Life’s hiring practices flout New York law, treating individuals as guilty of crimes for which they were never convicted, and inverting the fundamental U.S. legal principle that an individual is innocent until proven guilty,” the complaint ALIEA HUGHES-PHILLIPS v. NEW YORK LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY alleged.

The 14-page lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York stated it was illegal for an employer in the state and city of New York to inquire about arrests of job applicants or use arrests as a basis to deny employment when the charge was resolved in an individual’s favor, ClassAction.org reported.

The lawsuit stated that New York State Human Rights Law makes it illegal for an employer to ask about arrests that were terminated in favor of the applicant, require applicants to answer questions about such arrests, or take adverse action on the basis of such arrests. The New York City Human Rights Law backs up the state statute.

In addition, the complaint stated that “in 2018 Black individuals made up 15% of the population of New York State, but 38% of those arrested and 45% of those arrested for felonies. In contrast, white individuals made up 55% of the population of New York State, but only 33% of arrests and only 27% of felony arrests.”

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff applied to work for New York Life – a Fortune 100 company that is one of the largest insurers in the country – in April 2019. Plaintiff was offered a position in June 2019 and was asked to undergo a background check that included a search for convictions and arrests, ClassAction.org reported.

In July 2019, the plaintiff received a correspondence from the defendant’s human resources department that stated the background check identified arrests from 2010 and 2017. Each arrest was dismissed and resolved in the plaintiff’s favor, and the plaintiff has never been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime.

Despite providing all “relevant documentation and a written explanation of each criminal charge” to New York Life, and providing evidence that both arrests were resolved in her favor, New York Life rescinded its job offer to the plaintiff in August 2019 on the basis of the background check, ClassAction.org reported.

“Ban the Box” laws and second chance programs that help give ex-offenders in the United States with a prior criminal record a chance to find work after leaving prison are rapidly spreading, according to Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), which compiled the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2020.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) offers a complimentary white paper titled “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce” and an Ex-Offender Resources Page to help job applicants with criminal records reenter the workforce based on their knowledge, skills, and abilities to do a job.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a global background check firm – reminds readers that allegations made in class action lawsuits are not proof a business or individual violated any law, rule, or regulation since they are in the pleading stage with no factual adjudications yet. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

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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