Macy’s is in hot water now.
The Fortune Society Inc., a nonprofit that helps people with criminal histories to find jobs and reintegrate into their communities, filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on behalf of Jenetta Rolfer on Wednesday.
Rolfer, a Black woman, took a job offer at Macy’s to work as in the credit and customer service department at Macy’s in October 2018. But within the month Macy’s had fired her because of a misdemeanor conviction that was a decade old. The misdemeanor came from her not being able to provide proof of insurance during a traffic incident because she couldn’t afford the premiums at the time.
The lawsuit says that Macy’s discriminates against people of color by firing or refusing to hire them if they have past criminal convictions — even if the violations were minor, very old or wouldn’t impede an employee’s ability to do a job, like in the case of Rolfer.
All of that is illegal on Macy’s part. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New York City Human Rights Law specifically say that employers can only consider criminal records for a potential employee if the conviction would hinder their ability to do the specific job they are applying for.
According to NBC News, the Fortune Society said in the lawsuit that Rolfer’s experience is just one example in a long line of others.
People of color are disproportionately affected by the “overbroad and unduly rigid criminal history screening policies” at Macy’s because Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be incarcerated than white people “because of racial profiling and other discriminatory policies and practices in the criminal justice system,” according to the lawsuit, which cites multiple reports and studies.
“Despite knowing of its obligations under the NYCHRL, Macy’s has denied, and continues to deny, employment to job applicants and employees with very old, non-job related convictions and notwithstanding mitigating circumstances and evidence of rehabilitation,” the lawsuit said.