Lawsuit Accuses University of Miami of Racial Discrimination for Rejecting Job Applicants Based on Credit History

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In a ground-breaking class-action lawsuit filed today, Plaintiff Loudy Appolon asserts that employers who use credit history to screen applicants engage in racial discrimination, thereby violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The suit is brought by Outten & Golden LLP, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Law Offices of Santiago J. Padilla.

I've worked in this industry for years, and my credit was never a problem.

The University of Miami conducts background checks that discriminate against African Americans and Latinos, a class action lawsuit filed in Miami federal court today alleges. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Loudy Appolon of Miami, Florida, accuses the University of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by rejecting or firing qualified individuals because of their credit background, even though credit history does not predict employment performance. In fact, there is no correlation between credit history and job performance or trustworthiness, and credit reports are often rife with inaccuracies.

Samuel R. Miller, a senior attorney at Outten & Golden LLP, said, "By all accounts, Ms. Appolon was well-qualified for the position - that's why the University of Miami offered her the job. But instead of evaluating Ms. Appolon on an individual basis, as a person who - like many Americans today - may have struggled with and overcome some personal financial difficulties, and who showed promise to be an excellent employee, the Hospital stigmatized her based on her credit history. When companies act this way, they make it impossible for Americans to break the cycle of lending and bad credit, rebuild their lives, and contribute to their families and communities. And the employers hurt themselves by losing out on some of their best potential workers."

Sarah Crawford, counsel with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated, "The University of Miami's policies and practices are illegal because they adopt and perpetuate the racial disparities in the credit system. We see this problem occurring in private and public employment across the country, despite the fact that employers, credit reporting agencies, and researchers have found no link between credit history and job performance. At a time when unemployment rates are skyrocketing, particularly for minority jobseekers, this unjustified and discriminatory practice only exacerbates the problem. Employers need to know that the practice is discriminatory and must end." Ms. Crawford testified about the discriminatory effects of credit checks at an October 20, 2010 hearing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the Complaint, "Defendants' hiring policy duplicates the racial discrimination present in the credit reporting system . . . This discriminatory denial of employment affects not only the individuals who are rejected or terminated, but also their families and entire communities, replicating minority under-employment and compounding credit inequities in the process."

The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Appolon interviewed for a senior medical collector position with the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine in June 2009. She was offered the position, but the day before she was due to start her new job -- after she had already resigned from her previous job -- the University informed Ms. Appolon that she would not be hired because of her credit history. "I was shocked," says Ms. Appolon. "I've worked in this industry for years, and my credit was never a problem."

Attorneys Adam T. Klein, Justin M. Swartz, Samuel R. Miller, and Juno Turner of Outten & Golden LLP, of New York; Santiago J. Padilla, Law Offices of Santiago J. Padilla, P.A., of Miami, and Sarah Crawford, of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in Washington, D.C., represent Ms. Appolon.

The lawsuit seeks to require that the University stop using credit history as a screen for employment, that it make Ms. Appolon and other class members eligible for hire, and that the University pay lost wages.

More information about the lawsuit is available at

The case is "Loudy Appolon v. University of Miami, et al." Class Action Complaint No. 1:10-cv-24166, in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida.


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Daniel Clarke
Outten & Golden LLP
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