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Felony Conviction Renders Employee Unqualified, Discrimination Claims Dismissed, New Jersey District Court Rules

Authors: Evan J. Shenkman (Morristown), Ryan T. Warden (Morristown)

Published Date: June 8, 2012

In Saunders v. Apothaker Associates, Inc., a Muslim applicant was offered a position as a debt collector, contingent upon his criminal background check. Civ. No. 10-3170 (D.N.J. Apr. 17, 2012). Two days after the plaintiff started working, he was terminated when the background check arrived, revealing a felony retail theft conviction and a failure to repay $12,000 in court-ordered restitution. The plaintiff, who wore traditional Muslim attire at work, claimed that he had been terminated due to his religion in violation of Title VII and the NJLAD. Granting summary judgment for the employer, the court held that the plaintiff could not prove that he was qualified for the debt collection position due to the evidence uncovered in the criminal background check. According to the court, the felony theft and failure to pay restitution raised serious concerns “for obvious reasons,” considering the position was in the debt collection business.

Note: this article was published in the June 2012 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.

Evan J. Shenkman  (Morristown)

Evan J. Shenkman
Evan J. Shenkman is a member of Ogletree Deakins’ Knowledge Management Department, serving as the firm’s Senior Manager of Knowledge Management Counsel and Research. In his role, Mr. Shenkman is responsible creating processes, practices, and software to allow firm attorneys to work smarter, faster, and more in sync; creating internal and client-facing collaborative tools; and managing the firm's team of Knowledge Management Counsel and the firm's Legal Researchers. He also manages...

Ryan T. Warden  (Morristown)

Ryan T. Warden
Ryan T. Warden defends employers against all types of employment-related claims, including allegations of discrimination, retaliation and harassment. Ryan is a member of the Firm’s Class Action Group and Wage and Hour Group and has extensive experience defending employers against class, collective and single plaintiff actions arising out of alleged violations of state and federal wage and hour laws. Ryan has defended clients in the retail, trucking and transportation and food service...