U.S. lawsuit claims companies illegally refused to hire ex-cons

Said policies kept many black people out of workforce

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Dozens of companies that use popular recruiting websites violated a New York City law by refusing to hire anyone with a felony record, impacting mostly black people, according to a new lawsuit.

In a state court in Manhattan, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on Thursday sued a class of companies it said were breaking city and state laws that bar businesses from refusing to consider former convicts for jobs.

Since New York's prison population was more than half black, the suit said, such policies had served to keep many black people out of the workforce.

Only four companies are named in Thursday's lawsuit: electronics maker Koninklijke Philips NV, pest control company Advance Tech, data management firm Recall Holdings and IT consulting firm NTT Data.

But the NAACP said in the complaint it intended to add more than 100 defendants.

Philips, the lawsuit said, recently posted a listing on the website tweetmyjobs.com seeking a network engineer with "zero felony convictions."

The suit also names job-posting sites Monster, ZipRecruiter and Indeed as defendants because they would be required to remove such posts if the NAACP wins the case.

Laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of criminal histories vary by city and state, with New York City's law providing particularly strong protections to job applicants.

The number of lawsuits claiming employers have violated those laws has risen dramatically in recent years, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Other cases, including a proposed class action filed against Amazon in Washington State in April, claim companies broke the law by failing to provide job applicants with copies of background checks before making hiring decisions.

The companies and job-posting sites named in the lawsuit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is NAACP New York State Conference Metropolitan Council of Branches v. Philips Electronics North America Corp, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, case number not immediately available.

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