Macy's Herald Square
Macy’s Herald Square (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)

Macy’s was hit this week with a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over allegations its background check policies to screen job applicants based on criminal history is discriminatory.

The complaint, filed by Outten & Golden on behalf of the nonprofit Fortune Society, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by rejecting or terminating employees on the basis of their criminal histories, which they argue bears no relationship to an employee’s ability to perform a job.

“When employers use criminal history to make hiring decisions, they must comply with the law and ensure that the rights of job applicants are protected,” Ossai Miazad, a partner in Outten & Golden’s New York office, said in a statement.

“Macy’s has not yet been served or seen the EEOC filing referenced by the Fortune Society, but we are confident that Macy’s Inc. is in compliance with Federal and State laws related to background checks,” a company spokeswoman said in an email Thursday.

Fortune Society alleges that Macy’s took actions against applicants and employees to whom the nonprofit had provided services as part of its post-incarceration community re-entry work.

In a statement, Fortune Society president and CEO JoAnne Page said “responsible” companies “should not be putting roadblocks” in the way of those returning to their families and communities after being incarcerated.

Fortune Society is asking the EEOC to investigate the claims against Macy’s on a classwide basis, and the filing was meant to put the company “on notice.” The Cincinnati and New York-based Macy’s parent company operates 800 stores throughout the United States and its territories, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury stores.

In a separate phone call, Miazad said that Fortune Society was interested in pursuing “whatever can get us to a positive outcome the quickest” with Macy’s, including the possibility of a settlement that included substantive changes to the company’s hiring policy.