Jul 20, 2021
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Walmart accused of bias against workers with criminal histories

Jul 20, 2021

Walmart Inc has been hit with a proposed nationwide class action claiming 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.

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Jacqueline Ramos, who says she was turned down for an IT support job with Walmart because of a prior felony conviction, filed a complaint in New Jersey federal court on Monday claiming the company's policy violates state and federal law because it is not "job-related and consistent with business necessity."

Instead, Arkansas-based Walmart has a centralized policy of denying jobs to applicants with criminal histories, regardless of how much time has passed or the steps individuals have taken to rehabilitate, said Ramos, who is represented by Outten & Golden.

And that has a disparate impact on Black and Latino people, who are significantly more likely to have criminal convictions than white job applicants, according to the complaint.

A Walmart spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is the latest in a string of race bias lawsuits filed in recent years involving employers' criminal background check policies. Amazon, Macy's, Uber and Wells Fargo are among large companies that have been accused of refusing to hire or of firing Black and Latino workers with criminal convictions.

All of those companies have denied wrongdoing.

According to Monday's complaint, Ramos in early 2020 completed a six-month internship with Jet.com, an online shopping site owned by Walmart that is now defunct. Towards the end of the internship, Ramos' supervisor encouraged her to apply for an IT support job with Walmart.

Ramos went through two rounds of interviews and was ultimately offered a job by Walmart, she said. But the offer was rescinded two weeks later after the company reviewed her criminal history, which revealed a three-year-old felony conviction.

Ramos said she attempted to explain the circumstances surrounding the conviction, including that she was with friends who committed the crime in question and that she took a plea deal to avoid receiving a prison sentence.

She said that after her conviction she enrolled in a workforce development program and that she planned to pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science.

But Walmart was unmoved, telling Ramos in June 2020 that she had “provided no evidence of rehabilitation efforts or mitigating circumstances” and that it would not revisit its denial of employment, according to the complaint.

Ramos claims Walmart's policies amount to race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a comparable New Jersey law. She 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.

The case is Ramos v. Walmart Inc, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, No. 2:21-cv-13827.


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