In 2018, Outten & Golden, along with our co-counsel NAACP Legal Defense Fund, filed Mandala v. NTT Data, a proposed class action challenging the tech giant’s use of criminal history records to deny jobs to otherwise qualified people, in federal court for the Western District of New York. This suit was brought by two Black IT professionals, who allege that NTT’s policy violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As explained in our complaint, the differences in arrest and conviction rates between whites and Blacks are engrained in our culture and criminal justice system, profound, and have been expanding over the past four decades. For illustration: In 1980, an estimated 5% of the adult male population and 13% of the adult Black male population had a criminal record. In 2010, this figure had increased to 13% of all adult males and 33% of Black males.
These disparities are highly statistically significant. This is important because Plaintiffs alleged that NTT, like countless other corporations, have blanket policies that deny employment to people with misdemeanor or felony convictions. This practice disproportionately harms Black applicants because Black people are arrested and incarcerated at higher rates than others – and, thus, a company that doesn’t take careful deliberate measures when screening for criminal history is almost assured to disproportionately screen out qualified Black applicants. This is precisely what happened to our clients.
After five years of motion practice, the case remains ongoing.
Procedural Background: five years of motion practice
This case has been doggedly pursued by Plaintiffs, who have not allowed procedural setbacks to prevent them from seeking an opportunity for justice. After our clients’ initial complaint was dismissed for failure to state a claim, we appealed to the Second Circuit. This resulted in a split panel decision in the Second Circuit affirming the dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ case over a strong dissent, and an en banc petition that was ultimately denied 5-5 by a closely divided circuit, this time over three forceful dissents by five judges.
After the district court denied our request to reopen the case, we again appealed to the Second Circuit, and on December 8, 2023, the Second Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, finding that Plaintiffs should be permitted to finally file an amended complaint and pursue their claims in court.