Attorneys at the National Employment Law Project filed a discrimination complaint Thursday against the Lowe's Home Improvement store in Dublin for allegedly denying a black man a job because of a 9-year-old misdemeanor drug conviction.
The complaint was filed on behalf of Livermore resident Johnny MaGee, 49, in the San Francisco office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government agency responsible for enforcing federal employment discrimination laws, according to MaGee's attorney Jessie Warner.
MaGee, who is developmentally disabled, has never used drugs and has never been involved in drug-related activities, Warner said.
But nine years ago, MaGee's uncle asked him to go pick up a package for him, not telling him that there were drugs inside the package. Thinking he was just doing a favor for his uncle, MaGee agreed to pick up the package, Warner said. As he was bringing the package back to his uncle, police stopped him, searched through the package and arrested MaGee for drug possession.
MaGee was later convicted of misdemeanor conspiracy to commit a drug offense, Warner said.
He has had no other convictions before or since that incident and has successfully held several jobs, including a landscaping job he held for six years at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
He has shown that he is a trustworthy, reliable employee who sincerely wants to work, Warner said.
When he was laid off from his job at the Livermore Lab because of budget cuts, he applied for a garden attendant position at the Lowe's Home Improvement store in Dublin, a job he was well qualified for, according to Warner.
When he applied for the job, MaGee disclosed his conviction and described the circumstances surrounding it. Lowe's, however, allegedly has a policy not to hire anyone that has ever been convicted of a crime and turned MaGee away, Warner said.
The National Employment Law Project is arguing that the store's blanket policy regarding criminal records unfairly discriminates against blacks and Latinos, who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, Warner said.
The EEOC will notify Lowe's of the allegations and investigate the matter. The commission will then decide whether there are sufficient grounds to sue the company.
In similar cases filed in Philadelphia and Detroit, the EEOC found those employers' blanket policies to deny employment to anyone with a criminal record were in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, according to
Title VII prohibits employers from using employment practices that cause a disparate impact on employees because of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
The National Employment Law Project, which has offices in New York and Oakland, is a policy and legal advocacy organizations that specializes in the employment rights of people with criminal records.