Two NYC job applicants to Fresh Direct, one who had already performed the work of the job for about five months, filed a class action lawsuit against the grocery delivery service alleging that they and others who were otherwise qualified to work for FreshDirect were illegally rejected based on the company’s criminal history screening process in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.
According to an announcement by law group Outten & Golden LLP, FreshDirect has “instituted a sham process for evaluating applicants’ criminal histories.” The complaint alleges violations of New York State and City civil rights laws requiring an individualized assessment of qualifications for employment before an applicant is denied a job because of his or her criminal record.
According to the complaint, FreshDirect instead uses “categorical bans on wide swaths of convictions before any individual Article 23-A analysis” while also “excessively weighing certain Article 23-A factors over other factors” and “refusing to solicit relevant information from applicants before performing its analysis as required under the law.”
The public policy of New York City and state is to encourage the employment of persons with criminal convictions and “reverse the long history of employment discrimination against” them by “eliminating many of the obstacles to employment.” The recently enacted New York City Fair Chance Act codifies even greater protections for such individuals, dictating how an employer must complete its Article 23-A analysis and the steps it must take before denying employment to an applicant because of criminal history. Similar “ban-the-box” laws that bar employers from factoring criminal convictions into employment decisions have been enacted in 35 states and more than 150 cities and counties.
Outten & Golden partner, Ossai Miazad, said, “This lawsuit is crucial to ensuring that the strong protections enacted by the people of New York State and City are put to work for the benefit of all New Yorkers with criminal records.” Outten & Golden attorney, Christopher McNerney said, “During this unemployment crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more vital to ensure that employers that continue to hire workers live up to their obligation to give a fair shake to applicants with criminal records.”