Nonprofits, Profs Urge Redo In 2nd Circ. Ex-Felon Bias Ruling

Law360 - Tim Ryan
October 16, 2020

The Second Circuit’s ruling that national criminal justice statistics are insufficient to support claims of a company’s discrimination against applicants with felony convictions will disproportionately harm workers of color, a collection of public interest groups and criminologists supporting rehearing the case told the appeals court.

In two amicus briefs filed on Thursday, social science professors and 25 public interest groups led by the National Employment Law Project and Youth Represent argued the September ruling ignored racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system and would make it harder for minority workers to bring discrimination lawsuits over being denied jobs because they had criminal records.

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The briefs came as the full Second Circuit considers whether to rehear a panel decision that George Mandala and Charles Barnett could not sue technology services provider NTT Data Inc. for denying them jobs allegedly because of their past felony convictions.

In reaching the decision, the panel said the men could not support their claims with national statistics showing racial disparities in arrest and incarceration rates because those statistics did not necessarily apply to the pool of applicants from which the company was hiring.

But the Thursday briefs argued otherwise. Though filed separately, both focused on data that shows people of color are more likely to have arrest records than their white counterparts and argued hiring policies that exclude applicants with criminal records will therefore fall disproportionately on minority applicants.

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Christopher McNerney of Outten & Golden LLP, who represents Mandala and Barnett, said the workers welcome the support of the interest groups and professors.

“Their amicus briefs make a forceful case for how the majority’s opinion would make it much harder for African American applicants with criminal records to find economic opportunity,” McNerney said in a statement to Law360.

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