New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced on 4/22/14 that Bed Bath & Beyond agreed to rescind its policy to automatically exclude applicants with felony convictions and to pay $125,000 as part of the settlement, to include $40,000 for a restitution fund for individuals denied employment and $15,000 each of three organizations to provide job training and placement services for individuals with criminal records (the Center for Employment Opportunities, the Osborne Association and the Doe Fund). The announcement may be viewed at http://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-settlement-major-retailer-end-ban-hiring-applicants-criminal.
According to Schneiderman:
My office is committed to ensuring equal access to employment opportunities for all New Yorkers … The law in our state prohibits the automatic disqualification of job candidates with criminal backgrounds and this agreement puts employers on notice that slamming the door on job seekers based on past conduct without deciding whether that conduct is relevant to the current job is not only wrong – it’s unlawful.”
According to the announcement, a human resources manager for Bed Bath & Beyond provided information at a job fair that the company does not hire individuals with felony convictions, “regardless of any evidence of rehabilitation.” Consistent with EEOC guidelines on criminal background checks, employers must consider time elapsed since the conviction, nature and gravity of the felony, age of applicant when the offense was committed, evidence of rehabilitation, and any possible connection to the at-issue jobs.
In addition to the financial settlement, Bed Bath & Beyond agreed to modify its policies consistent with state law, conduct training on these policies, maintain hiring records and any complaints related to criminal history, and report to the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau to ensure compliance with the law.
By Art Gutman, Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology