Michigan Reentry Law Wiki

Sample letter seeking reinstatement based on Title VII violation

From Reentry

June 9, 2003

Director, Human Resources Department
Axios Incorporated
528 Bridge NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Director, Human Resources Department
Bissel Incorporated
2345 Walker NW
Walker, MI 49544

Dear Directors:

I am writing on behalf of my client, John Doe (date of birth 11-19-1952), an African American man with a 16-year-old criminal record. It is my understanding that on or about May 29, 2003, Mr. Doe submitted a job application to Axios. The application asked whether Mr. Doe had ever been convicted of a felony, and Mr. Doe truthfully answered yes. Axios then contacted Mr. Doe on the following Monday, June 2, 2003, and told him that there was work available for him that day. He reported to Axios, and filled out additional paperwork. The same day, Mr. Doe worked the second shift at Bissel, where his assignment was to inspect vacuum cleaners. Mr. Doe was told by his Bissel supervisor that he had done a good job. The following day, June 3, 2003, Mr. Doe was contacted by Axios, who told him that Bissell has a strict policy that it will not hire anyone with a felony conviction. Accordingly, Mr. Doe was terminated.

I assume that when Axios and Bissell terminated Mr. Doe, you were unaware that this action violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Courts have found that firing or refusing to hire African Americans or Hispanics because of their criminal records can constitute race discrimination, given that asking employees about their criminal record has a disparate impact on African-Americans and Hispanics. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has interpreted Title VII B which prohibits private employers from discriminating in employment decisions based on race, color, gender, national origin or religion B to prohibit employment policies that exclude individuals on the basis of their conviction records. As the EEOC has explained:

"conviction records should be cause for rejection only if their number, nature and recentness would cause the applicant to be unsuitable for the position. If such inquiries are made, they should be accompanied by a statement that a conviction record will not necessarily be a bar to employment, and that factors such as age and time of the offense, seriousness and nature of the violation, and rehabilitation will be taken into account." (EEOC Guide to Pre-Employment Inquiries, No. 695.)

In other words, in the absence of a justifying business necessity, policies that prohibit employment by ex-offenders violate Title VII and are illegal.

In order to establish business necessity for the purposes of Title VII, the employer must show that it considered three factors in making an employment decision:

1. The nature and gravity of the offense.
2. The time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence.
3. The nature of the job held or sought.

In Mr. Doe's case, the offense for which he was convicted is a relatively serious one. However, that offense occurred sixteen years ago. Moreover, there is no rational relationship between the nature of the job that Mr. Doe was asked to perform inspecting vacuum cleaners and Mr. Doe's criminal record. It is not as if Mr. Doe applied for a job as a bank teller, having been convicted of embezzlement, or for a job as a store clerk, having been convicted of retail fraud. There is no reason why a person with a sixteen-year-old assault conviction cannot inspect vacuum cleaners or do other assembly line work.

I can appreciate that many employers and temp services are unaware of the Title VII requirements as they apply to ex-offenders. However, now that this issue has been brought to your attention, I must ask that you reinstate Mr. Doe. I would also ask that Bissel Inc. amend its blanket policy against hiring ex-offenders so that the policy conforms with Title VII.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience to inform me how you intend to proceed. I can be reached at *****.


Miriam Aukerman
Attorney at Law

cc: John Doe
William Konyndyk

Return to the Main Page
Return to the Resource Library