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

Published Date: 
June 8, 2012
Authors: 
Evan J. Shenkman (Morristown),
Ryan T. Warden (Morristown),

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.