T-Mobile Sued in Federal Court Over Criminal Background Checks

The telecom giant was sued for violating Philadelphia’s “Ban the Box” ordinance, which forbids employers form asking about potential criminal histories.

The applicant says her charges were “resolved,” but she was still denied a second interview after not meeting T-Mobile’s background standards. She also alleges racial discrimination based on disproportionate arrests of minorities.

Zindora Crawford, of Philadelphia, applied for a manager position with T-Mobile in July of 2015, hoping to put a stint in Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program behind her. Her time in the program resulted from an August 2012 incident in which she was arrested and charged with multiple counts of theft of services, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, unlawful use of a computer, computer theft, computer trespass, criminal use of communication facility, and conspiracy.

Although acceptance into an ARD program is not intended to constitute a conviction, it may be statutorily construed as a conviction for purposes of computing sentences
on subsequent conviction, according to state code.

In her complaint, Crawford claims she has never been convicted of any of the August 2012 charges, so she was surprised to learn that her application was rejected sometime after her first interview.

“We regret to inform you that we found it necessary to reject your application for employment. This decision may have been made in whole or in part by information contained in a consumer background investigative report made, at our request…” T-Mobile management wrote in her rejection letter.

Crawford filled charges of discrimination a few months after receiving the letter, alleging that T-Mobile’s use of arrest records has a disparate impact on minorities.

She is now suing on nine counts, eight violations constituting standard employment discrimination and retaliation, and one violation of the Ban the Box Ordinance.

The complaint stated that T-Mobile, “further violated Philadelphia’s Ban the Box Ordinance because it did not provide [Crawford] with ten days to give an explanation of her record, proof that it was wrong, or proof of rehabilitation,” however the rejection letter included as an exhibit in the complaint states, “if anything contained within your background report was inaccurate, you have a right to dispute the accuracy of the information with Accurate Background, Inc.”

Accurate Background appears to have conducted Crawford’s background check on behalf of T-Mobile. They are not named as a defendant in the case.

The suit was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by attorney Stephanie J. Mensing on behalf of Crawford with Judge Joel H. Slomsky presiding.

A representative from T-Mobile said they do not comment on ongoing litigation.