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Class action status sought for discrimination suit

NTT Data’s hiring practices challenged

By: Bennett Loudon//August 16, 2018

Class action status sought for discrimination suit

NTT Data’s hiring practices challenged

By: Bennett Loudon//August 16, 2018//

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A lawsuit seeking class-action status with a named plaintiff from Rochester has been filed in federal court against a company accused of illegally discriminating against job applicants with criminal records.

The complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, claims NTT Data Inc. “rejects job applicants with criminal records, even where the criminal history has no bearing on the applicant’s ability to perform the job.”

“Because African Americans interact with the criminal justice system at much higher rates than whites, NTT’s policy and practice of denying individuals with convictions job opportunities creates a disparate impact on African Americans,” according to the 24-page complaint.

“The policy and practice of rejecting individuals with certain convictions has created significant barriers to employment that excluded many properly qualified persons, including disproportionate numbers of African-American applicants,” according to the complaint.

Because NTT’s hiring policy “perpetuates gross racial disparities in the criminal justice system, it is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the suit claims.

The suit was filed by attorneys at Outten & Golden LLP in New York City for plaintiffs George Mandala, of Rochester, and Charles Barnett, of Frankfort, Kentucky.

The suit claims NTT, a global information technology company based in Japan, uses a job applicant screening process “that systematically eliminates qualified African-American applicants based on their race, color or national origin.”

NTT has about 110,000 total employees worldwide, including about 18,000 in North America, according to the suit.

The suit also claims NTT’s practices violate New York Human Rights Law, New York State Correction Law, and the New York State Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Mandala and Barnett, both African-American men, accepted job offers from NTT but the offers were withdrawn after background checks were completed, “due to their past criminal history,” according to the suit.

According to the suit, NTT never asked the men for more information to fully evaluate the circumstances of their convictions, as required under state law.

Under state law, employers who refuse to hire someone because of their criminal record must show a direct relationship between the applicant’s crime and the job for which they applied, or that hiring the applicant “would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.”

The law also requires employers to consider factors such as the duties and responsibilities related to the job, what bearing the crime would have on the applicant’s ability to do the job, the amount of time elapsed since the crime, the age of the applicant at the time of the crime, the seriousness of the offense, and information about rehabilitation and good conduct.

“NTT cannot show business necessity with respect to its policies and practices as to screening applicants with criminal histories, including any blanket exclusions of individuals with felony convictions,” according to the suit.

“NTT cannot show that its applicant screening policies and practices bear a relationship to the employment in question,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote.

NTT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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