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Macy’s sued for Discriminatory Criminal Background Check Policy

July 1st, 2019 Christopher Davis


Macy’s is being sued for its discriminatory criminal background screening policy. The lawsuit alleges that Macy’s refuses to hire individuals of color with criminal records, regardless of their severity.  Further, it claims that Macy’s does not give employees a copy of their criminal history report before their termination, a notice of their rights, or a timely notification of their termination.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Outten & Golden LLP (O&G), Fortunate Society, inc., and Youth Represent (YR) filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jenetta Rolfer, a black woman who was hired to work in the credit and customer service department of Macy’s. Rolfer was qualified for the job but was terminated after Macy’s conducted her criminal history screening.  She received a letter from Macy’s rescinding her employment in November, but she didn’t receive a copy of her background check results until December. 

Rolfer explained to her manager that the decade-old misdemeanor in her background check was from a traffic incident in which she could not provide proof of insurance.  Rolfer says that she couldn’t afford the premiums at the time of the incident. Nevertheless, she was immediately terminated. Rolfer was “devasted to be fired over information in [her] background check that [was] unrelated to [her] ability to be a productive employee.”

Did Macy’s Follow the Law?

According to the lawsuit, the company-wide background check policy “disproportionately disqualifies Black and Latinx applicants and employees from job opportunities” due to minor convictions that do not pertain to their job qualifications.  This violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin” and New York Human Rights Law which bans employers “from denying employment to any person by virtue of their criminal record.”  The lawsuit accuses this behavior of reinforcing the marginalization of Black and Latino people who are more likely to be incarcerated due to the criminal justice system’s discriminatory policies. The lawsuit claims that this is just one example of Macy’s’ systematic discrimination against people of color. 

If the lawsuit’s accusations are correct, Macy’s also did not abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  The FCRA states that employers cannot exclude individuals with certain criminal histories if such a practice particularly disadvantages members of a protected class and does not indicate whether or not they would be a good employee. The FCRA mandates that employers provide workers with a summary of their rights under the FCRA and their background check results before they are fired. These requirements are intended to give employees a sufficient amount of time to explain any negative information in their background check. 

Seek Legal Assistance Today

In the past decade, employers have paid $174 million to resolve background check disputes, including prominent companies like Uber, Target, Amazon, Wells Fargo, and Domino’s.  If your employer discriminated against you due to your criminal record or membership in a protected class, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.