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Disparate impact claims follow a three-part analysis involving shifting evidentiary burdens. 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(k)(1). The plaintiff bears the initial burden of making a prima facie showing of disparate impact. This requires the plaintiff to 1) identify a specific employment practice or policy; 2) demonstrate that a disparity exists; and 3) establish a causal relationship between the two. Unlike a disparate treatment claim, however, a disparate impact claim does not require the plaintiff to show that the defendant intended to discriminate against a particular group.
In early 2017, plaintiff George Mandala applied for a position as a Salesforce Developer at defendant NTT Data, Inc., a global information technology services provider. Impressed by his work experience and his answers to various "technical questions" during the interview process, defendant offered plaintiff a job as an Application Software Development Senior Principal Consultant, but upon conducting a routine background check, defendant discovered that plaintiff had been convicted of a felony, thus, it quickly withdrew its offer of employment. When a member of defendant’s recruitment team broke the news to plaintiff, she indicated that defendant had a policy not to hire persons with felonies on their records. Plaintiff Charles Barnett had a similar experience. Thus, plaintiffs filed a putative class action complaint against defendant alleging that its hiring practices violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as several New York State anti-discrimination laws. Specifically, they assert that defendant has a policy not to hire individuals with certain criminal convictions including felonies (or similar criminal classifications), which plaintiffs say was unlawful because it invariably disqualifies a disproportionate number of African-American applicants. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court concluded that the national statistics on which plaintiffs rely were inadequate to show a relationship between the pool of defendant’s applicants who are Caucasian versus African Americans and their respective rates of felony convictions. And without any remaining federal claims, the district court refused to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state law claims and dismissed their complaint in its entirety. Plaintiffs now appeal that decision, arguing that the district court imposed an improperly high pleading standard, and that national arrest and conviction statistics are more than sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief under Title VII.
Did the trial court err in dismissing plaintiff’s disparate impact class suit?
The court affirmed the judgment. The court held that a Title VII disparate impact class suit alleging that a company's policy not to hire persons with certain criminal convictions had a disproportionately large effect on African-American applicants was properly dismissed for failure to state a claim because the plaintiffs did not plausibly allege that the hiring policy had a disparate impact on African Americans within the relevant hiring pool. Moreover, the court held that the plaintiffs relied on national statistics showing that African Americans were more likely to be arrested and incarcerated than whites, however, the court held that the fact that such a disparity existed among the general population did not automatically mean that it existed among the pool of applicants qualified for the jobs in question, which required certain educational and technical credentials, such that the national statistics were not representative of the qualified applicant pool.