The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September of 2020 that national statistics on the racial makeup of felons incarcerated had no bearing on a tech company’s hiring practices. The proposed class-action claimed that Black people are incarcerated at a substantially higher rate in the United States, which leads to racial discrimination in hiring practices.
In this case, a tech company NTT Data Inc withdrew two job offers in 2017 after it learned that the applicants were previously convicted felons. The company, which is based in Japan with U.S. headquarters in Texas, said it had a policy for seeking workers with a background that included specific education and tech experience levels.
The plaintiffs argued that this standard was akin to applying a certain size requirement to NBA players or horse-racing jockeys. The two men also claimed that the policy had a disparate impact on Black job applicants, which is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A U.S. District Judge dismissed the case in 2019, saying that national statistics showing the disparity of imprisonment (Blacks make up 13% of the U.S. population, but 40% of the prison population) did not adequately reflect a disparity black applicants for jobs at NTT.
The appeal was 2-1 split
The panel of three judges voted 2-1 in support of the District Judge, pointing out that incarceration rates do not reflect the pool of talent NTT was seeking. The lone dissenter pointed out that the plaintiffs essentially had set too high a bar of proof, pointing out that the other judges expected the plaintiffs to prove their claim in order to defeat the initial motion to dismiss.
Attorneys can fight for job applicants’ rights
The plaintiffs were not successful in this instance, but this should stop others who believe their application was dismissed due to racial bias or another violation of Title VII. Those with questions about a potential case can speak with an experienced employment law attorney.