By Holly Dutton
A would-be doorman is suing Halstead Management and its parent company for denying him employment based on a case of mistaken identity following a routine background check.
In a lawsuit filed May 2, plaintiff Kevin A. Jones, and unnamed other plaintiffs, claims that he was denied employment as a doorman/porter at a Halstead-managed apartment building after a standardized background screening revealed a criminal record — for a different Kevin Jones.
Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law, employers who use background screening companies must give reasonable time to prospective employees to dispute any mistakes.
“It’s a textbook example of why the law has that requirement,” said Sally Friedman, an attorney at the Legal Action Center, which is representing the plaintiff, along with Francis & Mailman, a Philadelphia firm that specializes in consumer protection litigation. Jones applied for the job in July of 2012 and was told he got it, but later received a call that a background screening report showed three criminal convictions and that he was being denied the position. Jones has no criminal record.
“And that was it,” said Friedman. Jones claimed Halstead denied him a job without giving him any opportunity to address what was in the report.
“What happens a lot is background reports are inaccurate, and the companies that have them don’t investigate when the person complains,” said Friedman.
Friedman added that Jones’ case is the only one she knows of against a real estate company for this specific issue, but that the group handled a case recently involving background screening provided by landlords.
Jones’ lawyers are asking for damages and for the court to enjoin the practices. “The message we really want to get across to large employers and landlords — you can’t just pass the buck and hire outside companies and assume they’ll follow the law,” she said.
“And the employer also has an obligation. Employers have to be savvy about who they hire to do background and their own liability.” Jones is also the lead plaintiff in a suit against Sterling Infosystems, a Manhattan-based background check company, which was hired by Halstead.
Requests for comment from Halstead Management were not returned as of press time.