A Latino former contract technical support worker who says Accenture LLP rescinded a job offer after discovering a decade-old vehicular homicide conviction filed a putative class action Thursday claiming the consulting firm's criminal background checks unfairly harm black and Latino workers.
According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a human resources worker at Accenture informed Roberto J. Arroyo that it was company to fire employees and rescind offers to job applicants if a background check turned up any criminal conviction when he challenged the termination of his contract and the rescinding of an offer for a permanent job.
Because incarceration rates for black and Latino males dwarf those of their white counterparts, Accenture's policy perpetuates the “gross racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system,” the complaint said.
In November 2005, an employment agency connected Arroyo with a contract technical support position at Accenture's Murray Hill, N.J., office, the complaint says.
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Over a year after he started working for Accenture, Arroyo's supervisor, Rory Cupen, encouraged him to apply for a permanent position with the company.Arroyo, who has a bachelor's degree in computer science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, made it through several interviews and was offered a full-time job in April 2007, pending a criminal background check. No one asked Arroyo if he had a criminal record prior to the background check, the complaint says.
A few weeks later, Accenture rescinded the job offer and terminated his contract employment after discovering a 1997 vehicular homicide conviction. According to the complaint, Arroyo swerved his car into oncoming traffic while driving drunk, killing the driver of an oncoming car.
Arroyo, a Navy veteran who served in the first Gulf War, spent two and a half years in jail. He has never committed another crime, the complaint says.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave Arroyo approval to sue Accenture in January.
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The complaint says Accenture's policy makes it nearly impossible for ex-prisoners to rejoin society.“Accenture stigmatized him as a criminal and fired him without notice,” said Samuel R. Miller, an attorney with Outten & Golden LLP representing Arroyo. “When companies act this way, they make it impossible for ex-offenders to rebuild their lives and contribute to their families and communities.”
The policy also violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, added Sarah Crawford of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who is also representing Arroyo and the class.
“Federal civil rights laws are clear,” she said. “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.”
McAvoy disputed the claim that Accenture has a set policy on not hiring prospective employees who have criminal records.
“Accenture has no policy that automatically prevents anyone with a conviction to be hired,” McAvoy said.
According to the complaint, Accenture has over 180,000 employees in the United States. The number of potential class members can only be determined through discovery, the complaint says.
The class is seeking declaratory judgment, changing of Accenture's background check policy, and reinstatement or back wages for employees fired due to background checks.
Arroyo and the putative class are represented by Outten & Golden LLP and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
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The case is Roberto J. Arroyo et al. v. Accenture LLP et al., case number 10-cv-03013, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.