A proposed class action alleges Walmart’s criminal background checks for job applicants are overly broad and fail to account for real evidence of rehabilitation or mitigating circumstances, and disproportionately harm Black and Latinx prospective employees.
The 19-page lawsuit, filed on July 19 by a Brooklyn Black and Latinx woman, contends that Walmart’s criminal history screening policy perpetuates “gross racial disparities” in the criminal justice system onto the retailer’s pool of job applicants, and amounts to unlawful discrimination. Walmart is accused in the complaint of failing to actually assess whether an applicant’s convictions are job-related or create a business necessity for the denial of employment, with the suit claiming the retailer’s criminal history screens are “devoid of individualized analysis.”
“Each year, Walmart hires thousands of individuals across the country, but each year it also denies employment to many qualified applicants because of unrelated and/or stale criminal history, pursuit [sic] to an overbroad criminal history screen that fails to account for evidence of rehabilitation or mitigating circumstances,” the suit says. “Walmart’s criminal history policy must be understood in the context of the reality that individuals who are Black or Latinx are significantly over arrested, convicted and incarcerated in the United States.”
The lawsuit says a job applicant’s potential supervisors, as well as those who interview the applicant, have no input whatsoever as to whether Walmart will disqualify a prospective employee based on their criminal history. Although Walmart purports to solicit evidence of rehabilitation or mitigating circumstances as part of its consideration of an applicant’s criminal history, the company “lacks sufficient processes to meaningfully account for this information,” the complaint claims.
“To the contrary, upon information and belief, Walmart’s standard operating procedure is that it typically will not alter a determination that criminal history is disqualifying because of evidence of rehabilitation or mitigating circumstances,” the suit alleges.
According to the case, the plaintiff, who had a prior felony criminal conviction unrelated to employment at the time she applied to work for Walmart, had worked to better her situation, and submitted to the company “strong evidence of her rehabilitation and mitigating circumstances,” the suit says, including that she had successfully completed a six-month internship with Walmart subsidiary Jet.com doing the same entry-level IT support work for which she applied. Per the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s supervisor specifically recommended her for employment by Walmart, yet the company, the case says, “failed to account for, or even consider,” the evidence that the woman had turned her life around, a situation the suit describes as not an isolated incident, but part of a broader pattern whereby the retailer has failed to fully assess applicants’ histories.
In late January 2020, the plaintiff received an offer letter from the Walmart hiring team with a formal offer of employment, the case says. A few days later, the plaintiff received an email in which Walmart requested specific details related to her conviction, for which the lawsuit says the woman, who was reportedly with friends at the time the crime in question was committed, took a plea deal for fear of receiving a lengthy prison sentence. Per the suit, the plaintiff also explained to the hiring team that since her conviction, she had focused on securing employment and enrolled in a workforce development program that led to her internship with Jet.com.
The following day, the plaintiff’s job offer was revoked, the case says. Although the woman worked in subsequent days to get Walmart to reconsider, these efforts were fruitless, the suit relays, alleging Walmart last June would not revisit its denial given the plaintiff “provided no evidence of rehabilitation efforts or mitigating circumstances.” According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff has filed a class-wide charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The suit looks to represent a proposed class of Black and Latinx individuals who, during the relevant statute of limitations period, were denied employment at Walmart based in whole or in part on their criminal history.
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.