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Accenture Sued for Discrimination Over Background Checks, According to Worker's Legal Team

Accenture (NYSE: ACN), one of the largest management consulting firms in the world, conducts background checks that discriminate against African Americans and Latinos, a class action lawsuit filed in New York federal court today alleges.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Roberto J. Arroyo, of Morristown, N.J., accuses Accenture of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by rejecting or firing qualified individuals who have criminal records even where the criminal history has no bearing on the individual's fitness or ability to perform the job.

According to the Complaint, "Such policies and practices are illegal because they adopt and perpetuate the racial disparities in the American criminal justice system ... For decades, the Supreme Court and the EEOC have recognized that overly broad restrictions on hiring individuals with criminal records are discriminatory and illegal."

The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Arroyo worked as a contract technical support employee for Accenture for nearly a year and a half. "I worked long hours at Accenture and I did my job well," said Mr. Arroyo. In April 2007, the complaint alleges, Accenture offered him permanent employment subject only to the results of a background check. Accenture then withdrew its job offer and terminated Mr. Arroyo's employment as a contract worker after a background check revealed that he was convicted a decade earlier of vehicular homicide after driving while intoxicated.

Mr. Arroyo "deeply regrets the loss of life caused by his mistake, and he has succeeded in becoming a productive member of his community ever since then," the lawsuit states. Mr. Arroyo, who has a bachelor's degree in computer science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has excelled in his career as an information technology professional. He previously served with distinction in the U.S. Navy during Operation Desert Storm.

Attorneys Adam T. Klein, Samuel R. Miller, Ossai Miazad of Outten & Golden LLP, of New York, and Audrey Wiggins and Sarah Crawford, of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, of Washington, D.C., represent Mr. Arroyo.

Samuel R. Miller said, "By all accounts, Mr. Arroyo was an excellent, well-liked worker during the 17 months he spent at Accenture as a contract employee. But rather than evaluating Mr. Arroyo on his individual merits, as a person who had made a mistake in the distant past and had moved on to build a solid career, the managers at Accenture stigmatized him as a criminal and fired him without notice. When companies act this way, they make it impossible for ex-offenders to rebuild their lives and contribute to their families and communities."

Sarah Crawford said, "Accenture's policies and practices are illegal because they adopt and perpetuate the racial disparities and overrepresentation of people of color in the American criminal justice system. Federal civil rights laws are clear. Blanket criminal record policies cannot be used by employers unless the employer determines after analysis that the conviction is related to the job at issue and denial of the employment opportunity is consistent with business necessity."

Adam Klein said, "What's most striking about this case is that a company employing hundreds of thousands of workers does not have a policy in place to safeguard against unfair and discriminatory use of criminal background checks."

In November 2007, Mr. Arroyo filed a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). On Jan. 8, 2010, the EEOC issued a "right to sue" letter to Mr. Arroyo.

The lawsuit seeks to force changes in Accenture hiring and retention policies, practices and programs, restore Mr. Arroyo and Class members to their positions at the company, front and/or back pay and benefits, and litigation costs.

The case is "Roberto J. Arroyo, et al., v. Accenture LLP, et al.," Class Action Complaint No. 10-cv-03013 (JSR), in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.