Ex-PNC Teller Claims Mistreatment Based on Criminal Record

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By Patrick Dorrian

Sept. 14 — PNC Bank denied promotion to and fired a black female teller based on her five-year-old guilty plea to an irrelevant assault charge, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Pennsylvania ( Barry v. PNC Bank , E.D. Pa., No. 2:16-cv-04936, complaint filed 9/14/16 ).

Aminata Barry says she disclosed the misdemeanor simple assault to the bank when she was hired as a teller in July 2014 and again when she was offered a promotion to universal branch consultant in October 2015.

PNC had no problem with her criminal record, which was unrelated to her work at the bank, when she was hired and working as a teller, she says. But the bank denied her promotion and discharged her—falsely accusing her of being “dishonest”—after she provided a copy of the police report of the assault to human resources in connection with her expected promotion, Barry alleges.

The bank’s actions violated the state’s Criminal History Record Information Act, Barry asserts in her complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The complaint also asserts race and sex discrimination claims under federal and Pennsylvania law, based on PNC’s alleged retention and promotion of a white male employee despite his multiple guilty pleas to misdemeanor drug offenses.

Issue on Radar of Civil Rights Authorities, Advocates

The employment of workers with criminal records is an issue that continues to receive attention from civil rights authorities and advocates at the local, state and national levels.

Nationally, it is an area of focus for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which updated its enforcement guidance on the subject in April 2012. According to the employment rights enforcement agency, employer use of criminal history information to make hiring and other employment decisions may violate federal discrimination laws because, among other things, it may significantly disadvantage blacks and Hispanics, who are more likely to have been arrested or to otherwise have interacted with criminal justice authorities.

In addition, the Obama administration announced April 29 the establishment of a Federal Interagency Reentry Council to lead the federal government’s work on the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals returning to their communities from jails and prisons, and the White House Office of Personnel Management said in May that it will issue a final rule in September to restrict federal agencies from asking about job applicants’ criminal histories early in the hiring process.

Similar ban-the-box legislation has been passed by more than 100 local and state governments across the U.S. since 2010, when the issue first began to gain widespread traction. Unlike those laws, Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act has been on the books for more than 30 years, but it has gained new life recently.

Approximately 70 million Americans have some kind of criminal record, according to the Justice Department.

PNC told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 14 that it doesn’t comment on pending legal matters.

Albert J. Michell PC represents Barry. No attorney has filed an appearance yet for the bank.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

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