The Third Circuit ruled last week that job applicants have standing to sue under the Fair Credit Reporting Act in a criminal history lawsuit brought by plaintiffs against their prospective employer, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the nation’s sixth-largest public transportation system.
The class action is filed in federal court in Philadelphia and accuses SEPTA of routinely rejecting job applicants based on information contained in reports obtained from background check companies.
The case is Frank Long, v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, No. 16 Civ. 1991, in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania. More about the suit can be found here.
Labor & employment firm Outten & Golden LLP is leading a coalition of legal advocates in the suit. The firm was featured in New York’s Leading Lawyers 2017 and partner Ossai Miazad, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “this is a significant victory for our clients, who first challenged SEPTA’s unfair background check hiring policies and practices in 2016.” Ms. Miazad added that “this ruling is an important affirmation that a defendant like SEPTA cannot block access to the court and cannot avoid scrutiny of their actual employment practices that serve to unfairly deny employment to individuals like our clients who have paid their debt to society.”
In finding that Plaintiffs have standing to sue, the Third Circuit explained that the FCRA requires that applicants be provided with an opportunity to review their background check reports before being denied employment. The Court stated that this provides applicants with an opportunity to “advocate for [the criminal history information] to be used fairly” by the employer, “such as by explaining why true but negative information is irrelevant to his fitness for the job.”
“This important ruling by the Third Circuit sends a clear message to employers that artificial barriers that deny employment to people with criminal records will not be upheld,” said Dariely Rodriguez, director of the Economic Justice Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The legal team for the putative class includes Adam T. Klein, Lewis M. Steel, Christopher M. McNerney, and Cheryl-Lyn Bentley of Outten & Golden LLP’s New York office; Michael Hardiman of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity of Philadelphia; Jon Greenbaum and Dariely Rodriguez of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of Washington, D.C.; Benjamin D. Geffen of Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia; Ryan Allen Hancock and Danielle Newsome of Willig, Williams & Davidson of Philadelphia; and Deepak Gupta of Gupta Wessler PLLC.