D.C. Office of Human Rights Issues Favorable Decision for Job Applicant with Conviction Record

Decision clarifies employer obligations under Federal and DC laws

For more information contact:

Gregg Kelley, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org, 202-319-1070

WASHINGTON – The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) issued a Letter of Determination in favor of Ms. Jamila Grooms, deciding that a large national retail employer had violated D.C.’s Fair Criminal Records Screening Act by asking about her conviction record during the application process. The decision clarifies employers’ obligations in complying with both a federal program, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, and DC’s Fair Records Screening Act (“ Ban the Box’”), holding that participation in the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program does not excuse a failure to comply with D.C. law, and that employers may comply with both laws by asking applicants about arrest and conviction record on the day an employment offer is made to an applicant. OHR recommended that the large employer amend its application process to comply with D.C. law.

“This decision from OHR sets the tone for companies that want to conduct business or who are currently conducting business in Washington, D.C.- that avenues and alleyways used to conduct unlawful discrimination against Returning Citizens will not be tolerated.  This decision was long awaited, but equally fulfilling to know that the Ban the Box Law that then Mayor Vincent Gray enacted, was not legalized in vain!  This law gives Returning Citizens a voice where we have been kept silent.  We are now empowered to pull back the veil on the bad actors in a tight job market for our demographic. I am humbly thankful for this entire process, and The Washington’s Lawyers Committee for being here with me this entire journey,” said Ms. Jamila Grooms, complainant.

Ms. Grooms was represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

“Job applicants with arrest and conviction records often face numerous obstacles to obtaining employment, despite their qualifications. Today’s decision by OHR is a victory for Jamila Grooms, who was disheartened when she encountered an application process that asked her to disclose her record before an interview or conditional offer of employment. It also provides important clarification for all employers operating in the District of Columbia regarding their responsibilities under federal and state law.” stated Joanna Wasik, counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.

Links to the case documents can be accessed here.


ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: Founded in 1968, The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org or call 202.319.1000. Follow us on Twitter at @WashLaw4CR.

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