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Lawsuit against Accenture alleges racial bias


NEW YORK—A lawsuit filed against Accenture L.L.P. accuses the management consultant firm of violating civil rights law when it allegedly refused to hire a Latino job applicant after it learned he had a criminal record.

According to Roberto J. Arroyo vs. Accenture L.L.P., filed Thursday in federal district court in New York, Mr. Arroyo spent two and one-half years in prison in a 10-year-old conviction for vehicular homicide in a car accident in which he had been driving while intoxicated.

Mr. Arroyo worked for Chicago-based Accenture as a contract employee in its Murray Hill, N.J., office from November 2005 to April 2007. In April 2007, the firm offered Mr. Arroyo permanent employment subject only to the results of a background check, but withdrew the job offer and terminated his employment as a contract worker based on his conviction, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint says that according to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 17% of adult black males and almost 8% of Latino males have been incarcerated compared with just 2.6% of white males.

“As a result of these statistical disparities, restrictions on hiring individuals with criminal records have a far more severe effect on African-Americans and Latinos than on whites,” says the lawsuit, which seeks class action status. “In other words, policies such as Accenture’s effectively import the discrimination present in the criminal justice system into the employment sector,” according to the suit.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act “requires that where significant racial disparity exists, the use of criminal history can be considered only where the employer can prove that the particular crime at issue is related to the particular job in question, and that denial of position is necessary for the employer to conduct its business,” says the complaint. Accenture’s policy “is neither job-related nor consistent with business necessity.”

Among other things, the suit seeks an order that Accenture institute policies that provide “equal opportunities for all applicants and employees regardless of criminal history status,” unless the status meets those qualifications.

In a statement, an Accenture spokesman said the firm “is confident that after an objective review of the facts, Mr. Arroyo's current claims will be found to be baseless. Since this is now ongoing litigation, we cannot discuss the matter in more detail at this time.”

New York-based Outten & Golden L.L.P. and the Washington-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law brought the suit.